The mathematics may suggest otherwise, but today Yeovil Town bowed out of this year’s promotion race. It wasn’t the O-O score-line that the Huish Park crowd of 6613 that put the final nail in the promotion coffin, it was the lack of mental toughness and ability that would be necessary for success. From the kick-off Yeovil never looked as if they could overhaul a mediocre Cheltenham side suffering an equally poor run of form. Yeovil’s build up looked short of imagination and their goal scoring chances practically non-existent.
Before today’s kick-off the majority of travelling Yeovil supporters would cite the corresponding performance at Whaddon Road in October as their worst of the season. Today’s performance against the same team would run that display a close second.
Recalling that line-up in October one can only sympathise with Gary Johnson’s selection problems. Back then Yeovil’s back four started with Lockwood, O’Brien, Rodrigues and Bull. Today The Gaffer switched to a back three of Lockwood, Skiverton and Pluck, with Lindegaard and Crittenden starting as wing-backs. His plans were thrown into turmoil when Lockwood, struggling after returning from illness, was withdrawn and replaced by Stephen Reed on twenty-six minutes. Then Colin Pluck failed to recover from a Spencer challenge and was replaced by Hugo Rodrigues after on thirty-eight minutes: Yeovil’s back four now lined up as Lindegaard, Rodrigues, Skiverton, and Reed.
If Gary Johnson was concerned about the calibre of his fringe players he need not have worried. Against a poor Cheltenham attack Rodrigues and Reed performed commendably. As the game wore on both Lindegaard and Reed pushed forward and made positive contributions. Rodrigues exorcised the nightmare of his own performance at Whaddon Road and looked in total control of the strong Spencer, and then Odejayi. Whenever, in trouble, which was rare, keeper Collis kept up his excellent run of form to ensure a clean sheet.
Gary Johnson’s problems came up front and in midfield: only Williams made sufficient contribution. See three Cheltenham players chasing a loose ball in midfield, with no Yeovil player in sight, spoke volumes. Lee Johnson and Darren Way failed to impose themselves the midfield and it’s difficult to believe that Way had fully recovered from his layoff last December. His recent performances are not up to his usually high standard and today he was noticeable by his absence. When Yeovil are playing well Johnson is the heartbeat of the team, but today he was not at the races, his passing at one stage could only be described as appalling. The poor service to the front men made it difficult to assess their contribution, any statistics will probably suffice.
It might have been very different if Lindegaard had been less surprised as he arrived at the back post after two minutes. His header was on target, but lacked any power or belief and Cheltenham keeper, Shane Higgs, collected comfortably. The next half-chance fell to Kevin Gall, bearing down on goal he seemed to lack conviction, and Higgs beat him to a through-ball. Yeovil held significant possession, often playing the ball comfortably across the back three, but failed when approaching the Cheltenham penalty area, often the long ball over the top expected too much of their forwards.
In response Cheltenham seemed content to shoot from twenty-five yards. First Spencer tried his luck, then McCann and Bird: none caused Collis any trouble. By far the biggest threat came down the Cheltenham right wing in the form of Martin Devaney. When Pluck slipped on twenty-three minutes Devaney sprinted to the touchline to cross: Pluck did well to recover and deflect Devaney’s cross for a corner. Two minutes later Devaney broke the Yeovil offside trap. This time Collis dashed off his line to deflect Devaney’s shot wide. In spite of the reorganisation of the Yeovil defence after Pluck’s departure, Devaney continued to repeat his feat. This time Rodrigues forced the Cheltenham striker to hurry his shot, and Collis gathered with ease.
As the half wound down the Yeovil performance slumped further and they were reminded of the expectation of the Huish Park crowd as boos could be heard around the park.