Yeovil Town take on Oxford City's Under 18s side in the FA Youth Cup tonight at Huish Park, kick-off 7.45pm in the First Round of the competition, in a match that has been rearranged following last week's fog-related postponements.
The carrot for both teams is a tough-looking away tie at Brentford in the Second Round. Oxford City come into the tie having beaten Aldershot Town in the final qualifying round on penalties and manager Stuart Housley had both sides watched in that tie played last month.
The Youth Team have been in erratic form this season, following their Championship win last year, having to readjust with several players having gone over-age, combined with a change in competition rules that allow sides to field a number of over-aged players, but only if they are part of a formal Academy or Centre of Excellence structure. However, their recent wins over Cheltenham Town and Plymouth Argyle show that they are gradually finding their feet, albeit mainly on their home turf.
Housley's side should be boosted by the return of captain Gary Bowles, who is currently performing a dual role - playing only for the Youth Team when Dorchester Town, who he is on non-contract terms with, do not have a game. He is expected to partner Harry Sherwood, a big central defender who is the son of former first-teamer Jeff Sherwood and is a significant presence at the back and a very different-styled player to the more lanky Bowles. Tom Parsons filled in for Bowles on Saturday at the back, and will no doubt feature somewhere in the sixteen even if he does not start.
In goal, John Steele should keep his place, provided he has recovered from a knee injury sustained against Queen's Park Rangers. John is a tall keeper who has had past talks with Portsmouth in the past, and because of his height has a strong aerial presence. In reserve, Peter Burridge, a very agile vocal deputy stands by if Steele is not fit.
The full-back positions are more up for grabs, but in the main have been grabbed by James Hatcher (left-back) and Jamie Morgan (right-back) during the season. Morgan is the more attacking of the pair, and certainly often pushes forward on a regular basis, so much so that he played as a right-winger on Saturday. Another right-back Ollie Wake has suffered from a couple of injuries this season and was missing again on Saturday.
Although Morgan played out on the right wing on Saturday, that spot has usually been filled by Danny O'Brien this season, but he sat out Saturday's match. Danny is one of the few to be in his second season with the club and is a classic winger who will use his pace to drive at the full-back. Another option Stuart has is to use Ren Turnock, who has tended to feature more from the bench, but has tended to be a real handful with his pace when coming up against tired legs.
In central midfield, Lewis Gundry is the newest addition to the squad, having come in last month, and he has settled in well - even featuring and scoring for the Reserve team against Bristol Rovers on Monday and he is likely to continue that role tonight. Up front will undoubtedly be Liam Hoarder - the team's top scorer with six goals and a good all-round striker who is strong with his feet and his head.
The other three positions on the park - central midfield, left-wing and supporting striker - tend to vary from match to match, mainly due to the flexibility that some of Stuart's key players offer. The trio of Phil Ormrod, Tom Clarke and Matt Concliffe are all in their second year with the club and thus represent - along with captain Bowles - the leadership on the park.
Phil usually operates as a striker, but often drops deep into the midfield where his physical strength can help break up the play of some of the more brutal oppositions Yeovil face. Tom is the team's captain when Bowles is unavailable and can play any of central midfield, left-wing or up front. He was given a professional contract by the club over the summer, and his style of play is more in the Arron Davies/Gavin Williams type of attacking midfielder who likes to start his runs from deep and then fire in shots on goal from distance. Matt is much the same, but his overall speed tends to see him used either out wide or up front.
Other options Stuart has for his side come from the likes of Greg Taafe, a tall combative central midfielder who scored his first goal for the club late last month against Cheltenham Town and has featured in most games this season. On Saturday, he also operated as a right-back, proving that he also has some flexibility on his play as well.
Joe Hastie is another central midfielder who has tended to provide cover on the bench, whilst Lee Bailey is another who has tended to come on late during games, with his physical presence and height allowing him to play both in the centre of defence as well as up front. Darren Watts has tended to miss out most of this season with the right/centre-back suffering injury problems, meaning that he has not been in the squad for some time.
The match kicks off at 7.45pm tonight, and Adults can gain entrance for 4 pounds, whilst Concessions are available at 2 pounds. Entry will be via the Yeovil College Stand. If the scores are level after 90 minutes, the match will go to Extra Time and penalties on the night.
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