My favourite play-off memory: Yeovil Town
Our final favourite play-off memory comes from Yeovil fan Ben Barrett. He could only really pick one night…
There are a few teams that have seen the end of season play-offs quite regularly, thus giving their fans lots of memories to choose from.
But, being a Yeovil Town fan means we have just one Play-Off season, 2006/07, before that we found simply winning the leagues was a far more effective way of getting promoted.
Finishing fifth in League One was a momentous achievement by a side which is widely thought to have one of the smallest budgets in the entire football league; Russell Slade had combined a solid defence with a number of attacking players who were able to cause any opposition trouble.
In the end we came up just short against Simon Grayson’s Blackpool side at Wembley.
I’m pretty sure Blackpool went on to do quite well for themselves, leaving Yeovil (and Cardiff) fans fluctuating between a pride at losing out to side doing so well and crying into a stiff drink thinking “it could have been us”.
My play off memory doesn’t come from the final however, it comes a week before in the semi final.
The Glovers were drawn against Nottingham Forest, a big side with a huge fan base and large amounts of expectation to get themselves out of the third tier and back into the big time.
The first leg was a strange game, Forest had just two shots on goal, two penalties.
They scored them both while Yeovil played the better football, created the better chances and deserved to at least score if not go up to Nottingham on an even keel.
But, as it was, 1095 fans made their way to the City Ground knowing turning over a 2-0 deficit might be mission impossible.
Being in that away end for the two and a bit hours that I there was remains the most incredible few hours of football I have ever witnessed.
The pattern of play was the same, Yeovil were probably the better side for most of the game, but the way the match flipped and twisted a thousand times and the stories that unfolded on the side of the River Trent couldn’t have been written.
Arron Davies made the tie interesting in the first half, a brilliant solo goal got the atmosphere bubbling nicely, even at 2-1 things were going to be difficult.
Paul Smith in the Forest goal pulled off a double save worthy of the Champions League final before Marcus Stewart flashed a shot over.
That’s probably everything you need to know about the first half, it was that kind of game.
The second half started with a bang. Scott Dobie wrote his part of the script by scoring to level things up.
An ordinary goal to break an extraordinary barren spell, it was his first goal in 21 months. They say timing is everything.
As far as my memory serves me, nothing happened between the 48th and the 80th minute.
Neither side wanted to make a mistake, everything bounced around in midfield and no-one wanted to cost their side at a crucial time.
The next chapter belongs to Chris Cohen, the man who had masterminded Yeovil’s success by pulling the strings in midfield was injured, he would play at Wembley but as he left the field we knew he was off for good. We didn’t expect him to move to Forest however. Still, the £1million helped.
Anyway, I digress, Cohen was off, but Jean Paul Kalala was on, JP was a tackler rather than a play maker and yet it was he who fired a shot in from 25 yards just as it seemed all hope had gone.
That shot didn’t go in, it struck the post before rebounding to Alan Wright, the Sheffield United defender had been released by the Blades before playing for his loan club that night.
His day went from bad to worse as the rebounded shot hit him square in the face and trickled over the line.
3-2 on aggregate, Yeovil had 8 minutes to find one last goal for extra time.
It has taken me a while to get there, but my play off memory is this.
Andy Lindegaard, a full blown Yeovil legend picks the ball up on the right hand side, he delivered a cross, Paul Smith didn’t come out and Marcus Stewart jumped.
Stewart’s forehead met the ball with perfect timing, the ball hits the net and we in the away end all go ballistic.
My memory is played out to the sound of the Sky Sports commentator saying six magical words.
“They’ve … only gone and done it”
Many articles or YouTube clips go on to explain fully how that night progressed. David Prutton came on, David Prutton was sent off.
Wes Morgan mislaid a back pass by 20 yards, Lee Morris slotted home to finally put us ahead in the tie.
Gary Holt decided that he wasn’t quite ready to let Yeovil have it all their own way before Arron Davies bookended a perfect night with another twist and a turn to wrap up a magical evening.
For me, when people refer to that night, my mind goes straight to Marcus Stewart’s header.
His passion, his commitment, his belief summed up what Yeovil Town were about that night and probably, that entire season.
There is an image of him stood celebrating at the end, shirt off, arms aloft, screaming at the away fans.
That image will stay with me for ever.
I was lucky enough to be there that night, I was lucky enough to sing in the services on the way home with a few hundred others, I am lucky enough to talk about my club playing their part in one of the most incredible play-off games of all time.
Forest have gone onto bigger and better things, much like they were supposed to in ’07, credit to them and credit to Blackpool but Friday 18th May 2007 will always belong to Marcus Stewart and to Yeovil Town.