Yeovil F. A. Cup fourth round ties are like buses – wait 55 years for one and then two come along within 10 days! The first team travel to The Valley for their tie on Saturday week, but tonight was the turn of the under-18 side to entertain their counterparts from Premiership heavyweights Everton. The 16 who travelled down from Merseyside boasted seven internationals, representing England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Iceland, so it was always going to be a difficult task for the young Glovers.
Although the home side kicked off it was Everton who made a very fast start with James Vaughan running toward the Yeovil goal in the first few seconds of the match. Within the next couple of minutes a testing ball was played across the Yeovil goalmouth, and Danny Barker was called upon to dive on the ball before the advancing Bjarni Thor Vidarsson.
Five minutes into the match Andy Holmes had a short blocked in the Everton penalty area following a Yeovil free kick, but the visitors attacked with a good run by Vaughan who seemed to be outpacing Sam Croft before Greg Squibb came across to help out. A shot from Victor Anichebe was well stopped by Barker, but he could not hold on to the ball and a defender cleared. Everton regained the ball, but shot over.
With almost ten minutes gone a foul on Sean Smith in the centre circle by James Harris sparked a scuffle after the Everton player appeared to fall on the Yeovil midfielder, and after taking an unnecessarily long time to get up seemed to attempt a stamp (although a disgusted Everton supporter sitting nearer to the action than me believed that Harris “thumped” our man!) and several players got involved. The referee showed just one yellow card for the incident, and that was to Vaughan. Everton were perhaps fortunate to continue with eleven players.
A longish shot from Anichebe went wide for Everton, and then at the other end goalkeeper Craig Gallagher did well coming out to beat Dale Williams to the ball. Referee Bennett then decided to even up the bookings by unnecessarily cautioning Jamie Underwood for a foul which was certainly not one of the worst in the game.
Chris Seargeant tried a long shot, but the ball went well over. As Everton pressed again Squibb made a good tackle at the cost of a throw in. Twenty minutes in and Barker made a good save, touching the ball onto the outside of the post, and Gavin McCallum cleared off of the line from the resulting corner. All of the action was taking place in the Yeovil half, and much of it in the home penalty area, with Everton looking dangerous and Yeovil looking tentative and defending deeply. When Yeovil did move forward too many high, hopeful balls were being played, and these gave the Everton back four no problems.
Vaughan broke through for Everton, but was adjudged offside, but in any event Barker dived to smother the ball. Yeovil had their first real chance in the 29th minute when Holmes shot just wide after good work from Williams. A Yeovil corner from the left reached Richard Cullingford out on the right flank, and his floated effort was touched out by Gallagher for another corner.
The good spell continued, and a nice turn and run by Williams saw him fouled, but the advantage was played and McCallum saw his shot blocked for another corner. From the corner a Squibb header went just over the bar and onto the roof of the net. After a shot from Paul Hopkins was taken comfortably by Barker at the other end, Yeovil pushed forward and McCallum was fouled midway into the Everton half. Williams took the free kick which the keeper came for and dropped, so a defender cleared the ball for a throw.
With Yeovil seeming to have settled and had their best spell of the game it was a disappointment when wide play for the visitors saw Vaughan play the ball across to Vidarsson, who in turn played on to Paul HOPKINS who slotted home. 0 – 1.
A Dale Williams foul on Harris, which again did not seem particularly bad, was sufficient for Bennett to show the Yeovil captain a yellow card, and this decision would prove to be crucial later on. Opposing captain Mark Hughes took the free kick which Vidarsson headed wide.
With two minutes of normal time remaining in the half a long throw from Andy Holmes was put out for a corner. From the corner Everton broke away, and appeared to have a man advantage but a very poor through ball went comfortably to Barker. In two minutes of added time Sam Croft was called upon to defend well, and Vaughan missed the ball after a teasing cross from Anichebe.
In the first half Everton had unquestionably been the better side, although Yeovil had enjoyed a very good spell immediately before the goal, but unfortunately the Everton side had also displayed some of the less desirable Premiership attributes – diving, constant back chat, niggling fouls and the occasional use of the arm for more than balance. This was typified by an incident where Danny Barker ran out to the touchline to clear the ball for a throw, and with the ball out of play the Everton player pushed him over to prevent him from returning to his goal. The linesman flagged vigorously, but Bennett showed no card, and two Everton defenders (including captain Hughes) chased fifty yards to argue and remonstrate with the officials. One of the worst culprits was Victor Anichebe, who was very lucky not to be booked for a blatant dive just before the interval (which earned him a chorus of booing for the rest of the game), but he pushed things a little too far when confronting the ref – presumably about the “foul” not given – and he was booked as the players left the field.