Yeovil Town picked up a point on the opening day of the 2008-09 season against Walsall at Huish Park this afternoon in a 1-1 draw. However, were it not for a late defensive mix-up they could have wrapped up all three points - Jabo Ibehre's bit of opportunism 13 minutes from time providing the Saddlers with an equaliser to Gavin Tomlin's 10th minute opener.
With no surprises in the starting line-up, the Glovers looked fluent from the start and grabbed a 10th minute lead, when a mistake by Walsall defender Stephen Roberts saw him miscontrol the ball into the path of Paul Warne, who took advantage by cutting into the area. Warne's shot was met by a flying save from Saddlers keeper Clayton Ince, but straight into the path of Gavin Tomlin, who was able to mark his league debut for the Glovers with an easy tap-in from six yards out.
The goal seemed to settle any early nerves, and the Glovers played out most of the first half with the ball barely leaving the deck, and Walsall struggling to get to grips with some of the fluent passing and movement amongst the Glovers forward-minded players. The busy Warne could have doubled the lead midway through the half, when a Darren Way cross was met by a flying header that Ince did well to palm over his own crossbar.
As the half closed, the Glovers could have again gone further ahead when an Aidan Downes cross into the box was almost turned into his own net by Walsall defender Chris Palmer. Bar the odd defensive block, the Glovers goal had been rarely threatened and Glovers keeper Asmir Begovic hadn't been called into action at all.
The second period made it quite apparent that the Glovers had been theoretically playing with the wind during the first period. The elements began to whip up, bringing in a belt of rain, and with that a very different proposition for Yeovil to deal with. Not that the opening move from Walsall had anything to do with the elements - more the Glovers defence still catnapping from the half time interval as Michael Ricketts got space behind the back line, but Begovic made his first save of the match with his feet and then Lee Peltier cleared the secondary danger.
The swirling wind, and Walsall's far more direct approach made things difficult for Asmir Begovic to get a firm grip on the ball at times. Once he was forced to tip over a cross that the wind turned into a shot, then another occasion saw him drop the ball under pressure, dangerously close to his own goal-line, as the situation became a bit of a mini-siege.
The Glovers appeared to have weathered that storm though - both in terms of Walsall's efforts and whatever the wind and rain could throw at them. The game looked to be drifting back into a midfield scrap of nothingness, which made the ease at which Walsall got their equaliser to be all the more frustrating. Nathan Smith and Terry Skiverton played keep ball on the corner of their own penalty box when the big hoof may have been a better option, and when Skivo's backpass to Begovic fell short, Jabo Ibehre, who had a stinker of a first half, was the poacher on hand to stroke the ball past the isolated Asmir Begovic.
Yeovil could still have won the game, despite a fairly poor quality second half. Substitute Lloyd Owusu was put through in a one-on-one with Clayton Ince, but the striker's attempt was on his weaker left foot and Ince could have had a cup of tea before picking up the daisy-cutter. In the end despite a dominant and positive first 45 minutes, it was probably fortunate that Walsall never really got to grips with the conditions either, and the game fizzled out into a score-draw with doubtless manager Russell Slade able to take both plusses and minuses from a curate's egg of a game.
Final Score: Yeovil Town 1 Walsall 1.
Scorers: Gavin Tomlin (10 mins, 1-0), Jabo Ibehre (77 mins, 1-1)
Yeovil Town (4-4-1-1):
1. Asmir Begovic
27. Lee Peltier 4. Terry Skiverton 6. Terrell Forbes 28. Nathan Smith
17. Aidan Downes 7. Marc Bircham 8. Darren Way 11. Danny Schofield
10. Gavin Tomlin
14. Paul Warne
Substitutes: 3. Nathan Jones, 9. Lloyd Owusu (73 mins for Paul Warne), 12. Craig Alcock, 13. Josh Wagenaar (GK), 18. Kieran Murtagh (86 mins for Aidan Downes)
1. Clayton Ince 4. Stephen Roberts 5. Anthony Gerrard 7. Chris Palmer 27. Netan Sansara 17. Alex Nicholls 14. Richard Taundry 6. Stephen Hughes 11. Sofiene Zaaboub 10. Michael Ricketts 9. Jabo Ibehre
Substitutes: 21. Rene Gilmartin (GK) 20. Emmanuele Smith 22. Marco Reich (78 mins for Stephen Hughes) 3. Paul Boertien (86 mins for Alex Nicholls) 16. Ishmel Demontagnac (90 mins for Michael Ricketts)
Yeovil Bookings: None.
Walsall Bookings: None.
Referee: Phil Crossley (Kent). Assistants: Andrew Bennett (Devon) and Andrew Laver (Hampshire). Fourth Official: Roger Vaughan (North Somerset).
Attendance: 4,518 (including 590 Walsall fans).
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