Eleven years ago to the very day, Yeovil Town were travelling to Doncaster Rovers. Not the current Keepmoat Stadium that we'll see today, but the rather crumbling (and badly named) Belle Vue. We were travelling there for an FA Trophy Fourth Round Replay. The tie was actually being played on Fifth Round day, thanks to the bog of a pitch that existed at Huish Park at the time. An initial home fixture was postponed on February 2nd, 5th and 12th before finally being played on Tuesday 19th, only for it to end in a 1-1 draw.
As a result, just four days after the original tie, the replay took place at Belle Vue on Saturday 23rd February 2002. Doncaster were one of the stronger teams in the division, and as one of the few full time Conference sides, there was a slight feeling that the Glovers had lost their moment by not seeing them off with home advantage. But we travelled north in hope, and with some expectation given that our own form was not too shabby. Bar a County Cup exit, we'd been unbeaten from November 9th on the previous year - a run of 14 matches.
Going into the game with Kim Grant, Anthony Tonkin and Lee Johnson all missing through injury, and with Darren Way and Olivier Brassart having to play despite suffering from a virus, things weren't looking too good and they looked even worse when Donny led at half time through goals from Jamie Paterson and Robert Gill, and then to make matters worse Gill scored another just four minutes into the second period. 3-0 down against Donny. Dead and buried. Out of the FA Trophy. Or were we?
There are various theories of what exactly turned the game around. The game was played in a fierce end-to-end wind, which Yeovil had to defend during the first half, but could gain some advantage from during the second period. The 150 fans behind one of the goals were also riled up during the half time break when the stadium announcer chose to announce the date of Doncaster's next round tie against Canvey Island just as the teams came out for the second half. We're not sure if that tannoy message reached the dressing room.
The third factor was the 52nd minute introduction of Carl Alford as a substitute for Darren Way, who like Olivier Brassart found the effort of playing through his virus to be too much. The other substitution had also been somewhat forced, with Steve Thompson, already suffering from a groin injury, apparently injured from manager Gary Johnson throwing a kit bag across the dressing room during the break which struck Thommo!
Alford's introduction needed no half time team talk. He was seething at being left out of the starting line-up against a team he played for back in 2000-01. Carl hadn't had a happy time at Belle Vue, and had been on the receiving end of plenty of stick from Donny fans during his time, as well as some rumours about his off-the-field lifestyle. He had a point to prove. Coming on at 3-0 down with just 38 minutes remaining, might have been an up-hill battle though.
Like a red rag to a bull though, Alford set about flying into every possible aerial challenge, as the Glovers used the wind to enable more of a long-ball game than we were used to under Gary Johnson. Five minutes later, Colin Miles (then known as Colin Pluck) got one back through a header, then with 15 minutes remaining, a towering header by Alford got him a goal that put Doncaster into panic mode.
Other than Alford, the other FA Trophy hero of that season, was Adam Stansfield, of course. He netted the equaliser four minutes later, then with four minutes remaining he put the Glovers in front at 4-3. In just 29 minutes, the tie had been turned on its head. There was a twist when Donny midfielder Gareth Owen pulled a goal back to make it 4-4 on 88 minutes and at that point we all thought that extra time was looming. But then up stepped Terry Skiverton one minute later with probably the best goal he scored during his playing time for the Glovers - a 20 yard wind assisted screamer through a crowded penalty box to give us five goals in 32 crazy minutes.
Doncaster's Belle Vue ground had tended to attract a few undesirables amongst their home support, and so we had been expecting a difficult exit for the 150 Glovers fans who had travelled. Instead the most we got from them in conversation was a stunned "What happened?!" - they couldn't believe what they'd witnessed either.
For those who did, it was the start of something great. Canvey Island, Northwich Victoria, Burton Albion all fell by the wayside in subsequent rounds and that gave us Villa Park and our 2-0 win over Stevenage Borough. Yet without that Doncaster turnaround - still talked about as the best comeback in Yeovil Town's modern history - that and the platform it gave us in the subsequent years might never have happened.
Same again today, lads?
Final Score: Doncaster Rovers 4 Yeovil Town 5.
Yeovil Goals: Colin Miles (57 mins, 3-1), Carl Alford (75 mins, 3-2), Adam Stansfield (79 mins, 3-3), Adam Stansfield (86 mins, 3-4), Terry Skiverton (89 mins, 4-5)
Yeovil Line-Up: 1. Chris Weale, 2. Adam Lockwood, 3. Steve Thompson, 4. Terry Skiverton, 5. Colin Miles, 6. Darren Way, 7. Adam Stansfield, 8. Olivier Brassart, 9. Chris Giles, 10. Nick Crittenden, 11. Michael McIndoe
Subs: 12. Tom White, 13. Jon Sheffield, 14. Carl Alford, 15. Andy Lindegaard, 16. Roy O'Brien
Substitutes Used: Tom White for Olivier Brassart (29 mins), Roy O'Brien for Steve Thompson (46 mins), Carl Alford for Darren Way (52 mins)
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