It's been a long, hot summer of record temperatures and scorching sunshine so the drizzle that greeted us sun-haters as we entered the Wessex Stadium came as something of a welcome surprise. Cool at last, lovely! The old enemy's ground hasn't changed a bit since we were last there for the FA Trophy game in 1999, an indication perhaps of Weymouth's stagnation over the the last 7 years. Well, that's not strictly accurate, the Wessex has changed a bit - it's got shabbier in that time.
A disappointing crowd of 1367, at least half of whom were supporting the Glovers greeted the teams. It may well be that Weymouth's pricing policy deterred many casual supporters from both sides, £10 is a lot of money to watch a pre-season friendly; but I was surprised the crowd was as low as announced. The Muff fans brought memories flooding back before kick off when they began streaming out from behind the home end to be as near to the end they were kicking towards as segregation allowed, but it was an empty gesture. Remember when we used to do that, we asked each other? It seemed a long time ago since we had, and a very non-league thing to do. The Glovers faithful were in good voice anyway, much 'banter' ensued to which the Muff contingent had little answer and by half-time the rout was complete. Nothing was heard from the home end for the remainder of the game.
As for the match itself, Yeovil played what seemed to me to be a loose 4-3-3 formation. Mildenhall lined up in a Weymouth shirt in goal and barely had a shot to save all match. Andy Lindegaard marked his return to the Wessex with a solid game replacing the departed Amankwaah at right back, with Forbes and Skiverton in the centre of defence and completely dominating the opposition forwards. Nathan Jones had his best game yet this pre-season at left back.
In midfield it seemed to me that the - as usual - excellent Cohen played on the left, with Terry slightly withdrawn in the centre and Anthony Barry taking the right midfield slot, though Cohen and Barry regularly swapped places to good effect. Up front Harrold and Gray were the main spearheads with Arron Davies playing a supporting role, though any one of them were likely to pop up anywhere at any time on the pitch. If it was confusing me, it was also confusing the Muff defence.
The Glovers took an early grip on the game which they never relinquished. It was a real pleasure to see the difference between the teams with Yeovil giving Weymouth an object lesson in keeping the football, breaking quickly from the back, playing with pace and generally looking like men playing against boys, despite the Muff team probably being somewhat older on average. Of the former Glovers playing for Weymouth the only one to really impress was Ben Smith, who at least tried to play some passing football, though sadly for him his teammates appeared to be on a different wavelength most of the time. Lee Elam flattered to deceive, Simon Weatherstone worked hard to no effect and was Marcus Richardson ever on the pitch? I didn't notice. Roy O'Brien was too often left trying to deal with 3 attackers on his own - despite that he still managed to have a decent game. Nick Crittenden was the biggest disappointment to me - what happened to the sparky character we used to love? Depending on which side he tried to attack Messrs Jones and Lindegaard had him in their collective pockets all match, a shadow of the player we used to know.
Yeovil took the lead on the quarter-hour mark, the near constant pressure on the Muff goal leading to a Matt HARROLD shot being saved but rebounding to the Ginger Monster who made no mistake with his follow up. Matt HARROLD had his and the Glovers 2nd on 32 minutes, a nice spell of possession football ending with a galloping Wayne Gray run down the left wing, a perfect cross and a precision header from Harrold past the keeper into the top right hand corner of the net. Simple, but in its way beautiful as well, as the best goals are. It should have been at least 3-0 at half-time as the Glovers continued to dominate but Arron Davies shot wide in front of an open goal, which was a pity as its never bad to humiliate your local rivals in 45 minutes, is it?
Yeovil did make it 3-0 on 63 minutes, Matt HARROLD grabbing his hat-trick and his 6th goal of the pre-season games; a close-range effort this time, again profiting from good work by Wayne Gray. The former Southend man seems to be forming a useful partnership with Harrold, though of course the proof of the pudding will be in the eating at Millwall next week and in the games against Bournemouth and Carlisle thereafter - their defences will be altogether tougher nuts to crack than Weymouth proved yesterday.
The main point of interest for Glovers fans subsequently was the first prolonged appearance of former Derby forward Lee Morris, who played for the final 30 minutes. First appearances were almost entirely positive - he looks sharp, has a good first touch and clearly has class in spades. He wasn't quite on target with his shooting nor quite on the same wavelength as the rest of his teammates but that's no surprise considering this was his first real run-out with the team. I look forward to seing him play again.
The final 20 minutes or so petered out in the usual flurry of substitutions from both sides. Morris went close twice with shots and McCallum, Kalala and Webb all perhaps should have scored but a 3-0 win at Weymouth is still a highly satisfactory result, even if it could and perhaps should have been double that. Only Tiverton to go then before the real thing begins at the New Den next Saturday. Even after losing Amankwaah with more players still to be added to the squad there is every reason to hope that the Glovers will be able to hold their own in League One next season. Don't believe the pessimists - we're in decent shape.