Well as positive as I was about our chances pre-season, I didn’t expected us to hit the top of the league this early in the campaign.
After an unbeaten pre-season, Yeovil Town’s positive results have continued into the new campaign, enjoying league wins over Brentford, Scunthorpe and Doncaster, cup wins over Colchester and Bristol Rovers, a draw against League One big boys Coventry as well as a strongly-contested cup loss to West Brom and the first league loss of the season against Bournemouth.
In a month where Gary Johnson was nominated for League One Manager of the Month, it has been clear to see that, in the majority of fixtures, the Glovers legend is starting to get various green and white elements to tick.
On the first day of September, the Glovers’ 2-1 home win over Doncaster Rovers saw the ten-point barrier reached in record time. It took Yeovil until the 22nd October after our 14th game to reach the same milestone last season, which puts us in credit.
Just five games have gone, yet seeing Yeovil sitting in fourth place in the table does spark glimmers of hope, even among the most dour-faced terrace-dwellers and some are even flinging ‘P’ words (and not just pies and pasties) into conversations over a pint of Scrumpy.
In my previous post I highlighted a couple of points which I felt could be key to what I hoped would be a worry-less Christmas which could springboard the team to a strong finish.
Firstly, I felt that the lack of depth to the squad could start to show cracks as the strongest eleven play regular Saturday-Tuesday fixture patterns and so it proved against Bournemouth. Johnson has stuck with the same eleven, where possible, and has decided to make them take responsibility, whether it be in the league, league cup or Johnstone Paint Trophy.
With hindsight, the gaffer may feel that a midweek JPT fixture against League Two Bristol Rovers could have proven an opportunity to allow those chomping at the bit to be let loose against the local rivals. As it turned out, the eleven who put a near-heroic performance in against West Brom a week previous ran out 3-0 winners in a drab, below-par performance in which Centre-half Byron Webster injured his ribs and Jamie McCallister was shown a straight red for throwing his left fist towards pal David Clarkson (who game hime a lift to and from the game).
Four days later, Yeovil came up against a very well organised Bournemouth team who not only played mid-week, but went to extra-time and penalties. The performance was lackluster and Johnson suggested that his players had hit a brick wall mentally and physically.
Surprisingly so, as the squad, modest though it may be, is full of youthful exuberance and energy. Reading loanee Gozie Ugwu has put pressure on regular starters James Hayter and Reuben Reid with his three impressive goals off the bench. Ugwu is part of what Johnson refers to as ‘the cavalry’, adding Lewis Young and Nathan Ralph as well as the striker to kill off the likes of Brentford and Scunthorpe.
The leggy performance against a good Bournemouth side was a blip, we are going to have blips. The squad will get tested- particularly when your captain throws punches and picks up three-match bans- but things at Huish Park are positive.
The 1-0 home defeat to the Cherries resulted in a small number (but audible number) of supporters deciding that what they just witnessed warranted booing. BOOING! Some people have either very short memories or are just not particularly bright. At the end of that fixture we were third in the table, yes it was poor, yes it was a home defeat but the habit of football fans in general to boo a loss no matter the context needs to stop.
The second thing I highlighted, was that we needed to successfully navigate what could prove to be a tricky set of first ten opening fixtures. We are half way through those fixtures and have taken positive results from matches against Coventry, Brentford, Scunthorpe and Doncaster. After the defeat against Bournemouth, I believe this is where the team will be tested and will need the supporters to stick with them and give them a chance, based on what they have shown so far this season. Coming up are trips to MK Dons, Letyon Orient, Preston North End and high-flying Tranmere with home ties against Sheffield United and Portsmouth.
This is where Yeovil will need to continue to display all the positive attributes that they have shown in the opening to the season. Marek Stech in goal is proving to be just the signing Yeovil fans expected him to be, whereas the partnership between Richard Hinds and Byron Webster at the heart of defence is a blossoming brick wall of a duo.
Goals have come from all over the shop in all competitions this season. Reid, Hayter, Ugwu, Marsh-Brown, Foley, Upson and Hinds have all netted this season, backing up Johnson’s prediction that this Yeovil team has plenty of goals in it. Spear-headed by the fluid front four of Sam Foley, Reuben Reid, James Hayter and Keanu Marsh-Brown, a lack of pace, creativity and strength is not an issue for the Glovers.
Yeovil are entering a key period of the season as they measure themselves up against a number of the league’s promotion-hopefuls but even if the GJ-brand of football is missing at times, who cares? So long as we win.
With a little bit of luck and with the backing of the Green & White Army let’s see if after the next five games we will still be talked about alongside ‘P’ words. As I have pointed out on We Are Going Up before; Yeovil are no relegation-fodder and we are out to prove a point. First stop, Milton Keynes. Bring it on.
Written by Ryan Peasland, We Are Going Up’s Yeovil Town Blogger
Ryan tweets at @rpeasland