One match that defines my club - #2: Yeovil Town
A fortnight ago, Gavin Barber kicked off The Seventy Two’s ambitious new One Match That Defines My Club series with a look back at Ipswich Town’s incredible play-off semi-final second leg win over Bolton Wanderers. It was a series that was meant to run every Monday morning for 77 weeks in a row but the thoughts of everyone in football were elsewhere this time last week. Over the past weekend, we remembered Gary Speed with minutes of applause up and down the country. The series continues with Yeovil Town supporter Ben Barrett.
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Yeovil Town 2
25th January 2011
It would have been so easy to pick some of the more high profile games that the Glovers have been involved in recently but I’ve gone against them. We’ve had some crackers too – some FA Cup runs, an FA Trophy victory and a couple of promotions, yet this game was just a standard League One game – a game we didn’t even win.
I could have picked our now famous play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest from 2007, but to be honest the whole season was such a ‘one off’ it couldn’t define the club. I could have picked our FA Cup game against Sunderland in 1949, or Liverpool in 2004 — but if they truly define the combination of our history and present is up for debate. I could have selected any game out of 2002 or 2003, the seasons that put Yeovil on the football map as we know it today, but we’re more than just that ‘plucky non-league side’ these days.
In my opinion, this 2-2 draw has the right combination of all things Green and White.
Reason 1) A giant killing… nearly
The Glovers are the greatest FA Cup giant killers of all time. Yes, some clubs have taken bigger scalps but no side has ever beaten more teams from the divisions above them than Yeovil. We have enjoyed many glorious days taking on bigger clubs and now, this type of fixture is nothing more than a league match.
There won’t be many supporters who can believe clubs that are used to Premier League football in front of tens of thousands play against little old Yeovil, but that’s the reality these days. The game at Hillsborough took place in front of 16,000 people, four times what we’re used to at Huish Park. With the calibre of players on show, it had a cup tie feeling.
Reason 2) A loan star was key
This Sporcle test suggests that Yeovil have been on the receiving end of 98 loan deals since we joined the Football League. In recent seasons, the introduction of a loan goalkeeper has been a key role within the side. Previously we have had Asmir Begovic, now of Stoke, and Alex McCarthy, who has been pushing for international recognition with England Under 21s.
Next in line was Bristol City’s third-choice stopper Stephen Henderson. Hendo has proved to be one of the best loanees the club has ever had, no more so than on this night in Sheffield. Under immense pressure Hendo was on fire – saving shots he had no right to get near, claiming crosses and having one of his finest hours in football.
Reason 3) Trevor Kettle
Ask any Yeovil Town fan which referees they like and dislike and they’ll give you two quickfire answers. We like Jarnail Singh. We dislike Trevor Kettle. It would seem every time Mr Kettle takes charge of a Yeovil game, something happens to get us riled up.
Affectionately known as “Our Trev”, Kettle was in charge that night. Sure enough, he found his way into his pocket to reach for red cards for both Luke Ayling and Adam Virgo – two Glovers sent off. Virgo probably deserved his, but Ayling was dismissed for two rather soft yellows. It wasn’t just us either – he made Giles Coke retake a penalty, one he had scored, for… well, I don’t know, but Coke stepped up to smash the retake high into the stand.
Reason 4) Achieve By Unity
It’s etched onto our shirts; it’s woven into the club crest. Our motto, much like any other clubs, is one we can all go back to. On that night we really did what was asked of us. We rallied round each other and fought for the same cause, to keep out wave after wave of Wednesday attack.
By the time the two defenders had been sent off, we ended up with a back five of striker Andy Williams at right-back, Sam Williams (another striker), Max Ehmer and Paul Huntington in the centre and Nathan Smith at left-back. Paul Wotton often made a fourth central defender with Andy Welsh pretty much the furthest man forward and he may not have left his own half for the final 15 minutes.
In addition, the supporters were with the squad in great voice and spirit while management team Terry Skiverton and Nathan Jones kicked every ball and headed every cross from the sidelines. Skivo himself would have been the ideal candidate to have in that type of battle.
Reason 5) It’s never been boring
Yeovil Town have had some exciting times recently. Whether at the bottom of League One or the top of the Conference or League Two, it has nearly always been interesting. In a way, this single game summed that up. For 45 minutes we were playing some decent stuff and even had the audacity to take the lead. But in the second half it was, to quote Skivo, “a free for all”.
In fact, having Skivo there in his capacity as manager is possibly a whole new reason. How many of these 77 club-defining moments will include a club legend in some shape or form? I’d suggest many. Here was ours in the dugout.
We were up, we were level and we should have been losing. But at the end of it all, we sat back and thought “Phew!”
It was a quite astonishing night. To be there and hear Owls fans seemingly boo their own equaliser, such was their dislike for manager Alan Irvine, was quite something.
The play-off campaign of 2007 may have been more exciting, the game against Liverpool in 2004 may have captured more imaginations and the FA Trophy win in 2002 may have kickstarted an incredible decade for Glovers fans but the Wednesday game may just have the right blend of all of those.
Following that game, Yeovil went on an incredible run of form, from the bottom of the table to the second highest finish in the club’s entire existence. From the spirit in the away end to the passion on the pitch, everything that Yeovil Town is about could be found in Sheffield on a freezing January evening.