For all the suggestions that this match at Roots Hall might lay claim as being a Coca Cola League Two match,
all the signs at Roots Hall on arrival were that this was a Cup Final that we were heading into. A stadium with
every ticket available snapped up weeks beforehand, a special commemorative programme on sale, everyone packed
inside the ground long before kick-off, and a clan of some rather ... errr ... busty young girls served up
in glorious technicolour to take a few people's minds away from the pre-match tensions.
For Gary Johnson, what emerged had been the news that he had been covering up Darren Way's
Monday bout of food-poisoning that had still laid him low enough to not even travel with the squad to Essex. That
on its own resulted in a fair degree of reshuffling, with Paul Terry moving into the centre of midfield, whilst
Andy Lindegaard headed to wide-right. Bartosz Tarachulski came in for a start whilst Colin Miles - so often chosen
for these sort of games - made his first appearance for 2.5 months for the club in his less usual role as a left-back.
On kick-off, Roots Hall was turned into a cacophony of sound as all 12,000 supporters attempted to make
their feelings on the importance of the game known, and at last the waiting was over.
The first 20 minutes saw Southend provide plenty of good approach play and possession but without any real end
product. Paul Terry had produced the first early scare for the home side when he curled a cross just wide of the
goalframe but this was a period where caution was evident and the Glovers were soaking up everything that was thrown
at them, with Kevin Amankwaah, Efe Sodje and Terry Skiverton in particular giving Southend nothing and leaving
quality strikers like Wayne Gray and Freddy Eastwood looking toothless.
Yeovil were showing that quantity of possession need not necessarily be an indication of quality, and their
lesser time on the ball was working to greater effect. Bartosz Tarachulski's 20th minute cross found the head
of Terry Skiverton but the Yeovil captain's header went wide. But this was not to be the big Pole's day. Deprived
of any sort of protection from referee Paul Melin from the countless shoves and shirt pulls, he lasted just 30 minutes
before having to leave the field with a broken toe. Marcus Richardson provided a like-for-like replacement.
Two minutes after his arrival, Richardson thought he had opened the scoring when he received a Phil Jevons flick-on.
Chesting the ball and wrong-footing home keeper Darryl Flahavan, he landed the ball in the net from close range
but a linesman's flag for offside was to deny him.
A minute later Southend finally got their first attempt on goal, although they got it in slightly uncomfortable
circumstances. Earlier this month at Kidderminster, the opposition chose to play on whilst one of their players
was down following an injury, and once again Southend elected to play on with ten men despite Wayne Gray
lying on the deck. Freddy Eastwood made himself
room from wide on the left and cut inside, but his attempt on goal was woeful and skewed well wide of the target.
As the game finally opened up, play switched to the other end as Lee Johnson fed Marcus Richardson down the right
and despite looking as though he never had a chance of keeping the ball in play, the former Lincoln striker put in
a Gallesque cross from the byline to the back-post allowing Arron Davies to head the ball back across the face of
goal towards the top corner. A near certain goal - that was until Darryl Flahavan flung himself at the ball and palmed
it away for a corner.
Two minutes later and Flahavan was to Southend's rescue once again as Johnson and Richardson combined for
a second time setting the latter in on goal. The former Woking keeper's brave block denied Yeovil once again as
they enjoyed their best spell of the match.
Andy Lindegaard perhaps should have crossed rather than shot when he broke through just before the half-time
cuppa but he drove the ball wide of the near post when Phil Jevons was screaming for the ball on the back post.
But the half ended with Yeovil having to reorganise a second time, with Richardson's 15 minutes of fame being
an impressive one, but ultimately ending in disappointment as he trudged off the field with a hamstring problem,
replaced by Andrej Stolcers.
During injury time, Yeovil hearts were in their mouths when Southend won a free kick right on the edge of the area
in an almost perfect spot for a strike on goal. But Mark Gower's drive was deflected for a corner and the game
went in at the break with neither side making the breakthrough.
No obvious changes from either camp during the break and it was Yeovil who grabbed the first attempt on goal
six minutes in when a Kevin Amankwaah short corner found Lee Johnson, who threaded the ball square to Andy Lindegaard,
but unfortunately Lindy's shot didn't find the target.
Freddy Eastwood proved to be inaccurate once again when he slid his way across the edge of the Yeovil area only to
land his shot wide of the target. Meanwhile Che Wilson became the one and only entry into the referees notebook
when he chopped down Andy Lindegaard after the right-winger had changed direction sharply.
Freddy Eastwood missed again when he headed wide as Southend continued their possessional domination without
really making Steve Collis break sweat. Collis finally had to save one after a Kevin Maher cross was flicked onto
the back post and a rare moment of sloppy marking gave Wayne Gray a free header six yards out. Somewhat charitably,
he managed little more than a backpass straight into the Yeovil keeper's arms.
Luke Gutteridge became the latest Southend player to forget where the target was as he put Eastwood's cross
well wide. Yeovil had been struggling to get any kind of incisive moves into the Southend half but finally managed
their first attempt of note 20 minutes in when Lee Johnson produced a trademark long-ranger that whistled past the
Colin Miles retired in favour of Kevin Gall as Gary Johnson made his intentions clear with just 17 minutes remaining.
Gall slotted in on the right-wing slot as Lindy switched through to left-back as Yeovil prepared to try and hit
Southend on the break with speed.
Freddy Eastwood continued his attempts to land the match ball in the car park when he squandered another chance
on the edge of the area, sending Kevin Maher's crossfield pass hopelessly wide of the target. It can only be assumed
that Southend's leading goalscorer is normally a little more on his game than this - throughout the game he looked
like a player that had put his boots on the wrong way round.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, the match seemed destined to end in a 0-0 draw. Kevin Maher forced
Steve Collis to beat out a cross-cum-shot after Arron Davies had returned one of the Southend captain's corners.
But with time ticking out, Yeovil were to execute a classic sucker-punch on the home side to punish them for
their waywardness around the 18 yard area. A quick ball out of defence found Arron Davies and as he interchanged
passes with Phil Jevons, the duo stretched the Southend backline. Davies shot from distance and as the ball
cannoned off Spencer Prior, the loose ball landed perfectly into the path of Phil JEVONS who instantly
fired home from a narrow angle. All four sides of the ground fell silent for a split second as the Southend fans
sat with their heads in their hands and at the far end Yeovil fans peered across 90 yards to see where the
ball had landed. The sight of Kevin Gall grabbing Jevons in delight told them all they needed to know, and 1,600
Glovers erupted in delight and Gary Johnson did a jig on the Roots Hall pitch.
Seven long minutes plus nearly five minutes of injury time seemed to last as long as the match itself, as
fingernails were bitten down to the core in the North Stand, but the nearest Southend got was a volley from
substitute Mark Bentley as Yeovil's defence remained rock solid with Amankwaah, Sodje and Skiverton totally in command
and in fact Kevin Gall and Arron Davies looking the more likely to provide the next goal, as Southend's attempts
to push up in numbers left them exposed on the break.
The final whistle brought celebrations that seemed to go on forever, and was only broken up by Gary Johnson
reminding his side that they haven't quite done the job yet. With Swansea and Scunthorpe both winning, the season
is certainly not decided yet, but the reaction of both players and supporters gave an idea as to how huge that
result was. Southend's players sat in the centre-circle with their heads in their hands as the celebrations
continued showed how fine the line between success and failure can be at this stage of the season.
Full-time: Southend United 0 - 1 Yeovil Town
Permutation, Nervous Tension, Jubilation, Celebration
Banned, and rightly so from using the scribe during play; perceived, rightly so, as a bad omen; I can’t not write, post match of course, about yesterdays roller coaster ride of emotion.
The day began at 7.30 as the YTISA bus left Huish Park, and no sooner than we’d reached the A303, as before, all that week, we began to assess the permutations and connotations of what each result of those in the chasing pack would bring if we lost, won, drew, or if they lost, won or drew, or if they drew and we drew, or if we lost by 4 and they won by five….Jesus, quite frankly not even Vorderman could have helped…we put the papers down, but they were never far away. Best case scenario we won, the others lost, Forest and Brighton are relegated, Hartlepool go up, leaving us with Bournemouth, Bristol, The Owls of Sheffield and if Torquay survived, some mouth watering games next season….don’t even think about it they cried! Ok, would you like me to look at the worst case scenario, we stuff up, both today and in the play-offs, and the opening league fixtures of next season will be Chester away on the Saturday and Hereford at home on the Tuesday….Heaven forbid!
Southend was reached in good time, we were on the seafront by a little after noon, Smithy’s bar laid on a spread and the beer was going down well, not for me, I can’t drink before a game, I took the option of a stroll along the prom…jellied eels and shell suits, and imitation leopard skin lined the way, interspersed with green and white.
We arrived at Roots Hall just after two, I had to change my ticket from a junior to an adult, easier said than done, eventually it was cleared and I was in. The compact ground was already filling, the players were on the pitch warming up, and as they left the half way line and ran in unison toward the away end, that was the moment when the roof was lifted for the first time, in fact, it probably, like me has not come down yet!
The Kylie experience adorned the centre circle, I could not help but to take a close look at the scantily clad babes dancing with gusto, but I noticed, with intent that the players never took a glance. Fantastic I thought, they are totally focused on only one thing. Ten to three, and the non-playing squad walked around the ground to their seats, first passed the home support, Steven Reed, rather stupidly decided to make vigorous hand gestures to the Shrimpers before being pushed on hastily by a rotund steward, Lockwood led them past the green army, I will never forget Woozleys’ face. If he never plays for Yeovil again he’ll remember that moment forever. I made an effort to savour the moment, whatever happens today, just to be there, in the shake up at the right end of the table was unbelievable, imagine if I was a Saints fan.
The game got under way, and the atmosphere was one of the best I have ever, ever known, it was definitely the loudest, in fact it was totally electrifying, all four sides of the ground were literally going for it big time. Except that is for a few minutes mid way through the first half, when I think it must have been nerves got the better of us and, for only a few minutes we took a breather. The game itself was tight and compact with little opportunity for either side. The best fell to Yeovil, Richardson who moments earlier came on for the injured Bartosz got a great cross in from the right, and Aaron Davies, at the far post headed goalward but Flahavan in the United goal saved really well, palming the ball away for a corner. Richardson hurt himself in the process, and he too right on half time had to leave the field, being replace by Stolcers. How the hell were we going to break down the hugely impressive Adam Barrett, a Rovers reject (work that one out) without the big men up front?
Half time came and went, the bad news was that Swansea and Scunthorpe were ahead in their matches, we just had to hold on, a nil-nil would be a good result, and anyway, it had nil-nil written all over it so why worry!! Steve Collis kept goal in front of us, he was probably the slightly busier keeper, Southend having most of the possession but not really threatening, although it’s easy to say that now of course. Yeovil relied on the quick break, when the opportunity arrived…and by god it duly did.
With seven minutes remaining, I think it was Aaron Davies who burst forward, from what I recall his shot was blocked and the loose ball fell to Jevons, we all took to our feet, surely he would score….but it seemed to take an age, and then... Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssss!
At this point I must thank the man in row G seat 132, for I experienced a moment that has never gone before me at a match before, I literally went blind, everything went black…I was fainting! I’m not sure if it was relief, heat, a dramatic change in blood pressure or what…but I had gone. I propped myself up against his back and nestled my head in between his clattering shoulder blades and I screamed like I’ve never screamed before, he, feeling me tight up against him turned around, totally unaware of my plight and hugged me like I’ve never been hugged before, and like a biblical miracle I could see again, for some reason I used my newly found eyes and with my nanosecond of composure I tried to pick out the linesman and the ref, just to make sure that the goal was given, there was no reason why it shouldn’t have, but I just needed confirmation, and then with abandon, I along with the others went bananas!
As the game came towards it final moments it was intense, my mind kept flashing back to past Match of the Days programmes when they used to show close ups of the fans on the final games of the season, to capture their despair or delight. I, we, were living the dream, not the dread. The fourth official signalled 3 minutes of added time, it took an age, whilst our goal never came under siege, like it did at Kidderminster, it had one or two nervy moments. Thankfully we had rocks at the back, none bigger than Sodje and Amankwaah, surely Gary Johnson’s best ever dealings in the transfer market.
The whistle blew, we went mad again, who cares what happened elsewhere, we are top of the league and I think promoted. In a rather flat moment I had no one to share it with, no one to hug…I was on my own. It dawned on me why Pat Cash ran the Wimbledon steps after winning the mens’ final to find his dad, I looked around and eventually saw Seb doing a Pat Cash, clambering up the steps to give me a man hug! It’s stupid, I don’t hug my mum, my wife or anyone like that…it must be a football thing!
The players jigged in front of us, they hugged too, if fact I’m sure Skivvo and Paul Terry kissed, even I wouldn’t do that! The Southend players walked the ground and passed our way, we clapped them, they appreciated that I’m sure and they responded equally. They were flat, devastated - and yes I felt for them, but only briefly. Today was about Yeovil and Nottingham Forest, I could not remove them from my mind.
We made our way back to the buses, no mad celebrations, no gloating, we were just quiet, reserved. I think we were, to a man, woman and child totally knackered! We left Southend and in a poignant moment on the M25 we passed the AFC Wimbledon open top double decker, they were having a ball, I not sure if it was fans, players or both but we gave each other a rich, warm heart thumping round of applause, a brilliant moment.
Finally we reached Fleet, a small town in Yeovil. I sat down with a mug of tea, absorbed the two spoons of sugar along with the tired, content and beautiful faces. This, I’m sure must be Football Heaven…Forest, I pondered, must be in Football Hell!
MOTM Vote Result:
Overall match rating: 8.6 / 10
65 votes received.
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