Sunday, 8 December 2013

Yeovil Town 2 v 2 Charlton Athletic

Saturday 7th December 2013
Football League Championship
Huish Park, Yeovil
Admission: £20.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 6,053
Match Rating: 3

My first awayday following Charlton would be to a venue that, with absolutely no disrespect to Yeovil, I can still scarcely believe hosts second tier football. I still remember the day when I saw them play at Tonbridge, then of the Kent League, and only just triumph 1-2 in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round. Indeed, Yeovil have only been in the Football League for ten seasons and were in the Isthmian League just 17 seasons ago, so there's is a remarkable, heartwarming story that offers hope and inspiration to all clubs in non-league.

Huish Park is not the most accessible of venues, situated almost five miles from Yeovil Junction train station with no direct buses to the stadium, and so I chose to take the Charlton club coach today - even that was not without problems though, severe congestion on the road leaving the ground meaning it took well over half an hour to travel the couple of miles to the dual carriageway. In a division dominated by clubs relegated from the Premier League and/or with large supports, Huish Park certainly stands out with its modesty. All-seater, single tier stands stretch along both lengths, whilst behind both goals are terraces - the home end covered whilst the away end is open to the elements. It certainly was a refreshing change to have be able to stand at a match in the second tier of the Football League. Apart from that novelty factor, it's otherwise quite an uninspiring but perfectly functional ground.

After a predictably tricky start to their first ever season in the second tier of English football, Yeovil have come into some form lately and had impressively won their previous two fixtures away at Watford and at home to Blackpool. That followed three successive defeats and they went into today's game in the relegation zone, third bottom but only two points behind the team immediately outside the relegation zone - Charlton, who had lost their previous two games. The signs were not good for a goal fest here - the two teams were comfortably joint lowest scorers in the division, scoring just 14 goals from 18 games each.

With sunny conditions at kick off which gave way to overcast conditions and occasional misty rain as the game wore on, Charlton certainly sought to seize the initiative early on, although clear sights on goal were thin on the ground as the home side settled and started to look the more threatening. It was Charlton who took the lead though on 37 minutes thanks to a wonderful solo goal from on-loan Cameron Stewart. A Yeovil attack broke down and Stewart took possession of the ball around the half way line before setting off on a mazy run that culminated in a low drive past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net from just outside the box. Stewart had a spell causing no end of problems and indeed he created the second goal in added on time at the end of the first half, finding space to send over a cross from the byline and Captain Johnnie Jackson headed the ball home at the far post.

So Charlton had opened up a comfortable looking lead at half time, and one that they at least looked like comfortably holding on to if not adding to. However,  almost out of nothing, Yeovil pulled a goal back when a cross took a sizeable deflection off of Charlton defender Michael Morrison and went into the net. Four minutes later and Yeovil were awarded a penalty, when Dorian Dervite pulled back Joel Grant and on-loan Ishmael Miller drove the penalty powerfully down the middle to tie the game up at 2-2. A couple of minutes later and things went from bad to worse for Charlton when their captain Johnnie Jackson was shown a straight red card for a block tackle - it seemed harsh as Jackson made contact with the ball and was not reckless or out of control in the tackle. By now the game had completely  turned on its head as now Yeovil looked much the likelier to claim the win now, but Charlton did hold on for a point which, in the end, they must have been satisfied with. Overall though, they will surely rue that crazy six minute spell, before which they seemed to be cruising toward a comfortable and much needed victory.

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