Not perfect by any means, but so much better than of late, largely because (praise be) we tried to play football. And we had a formation and combinations in key areas that worked better than in recent weeks. Sometimes the passing wasn’t crisp enough, which was perhaps understandable as the team is a little low on confidence, we didn’t make the most of some opportunities to score more, and for whatever reason Yeovil had enough decent chances themselves to have scored one or two (and if they’d gone ahead in the first half it could have been a very different game). But we carried genuine menace down both flanks, had a central midfield combination that combined graft and grace, and with Mooney often dropping deep there was space created for Bailey to break forward to (nearly) good effect. It all made for a better game to watch than of late; after all, we created more than the past five games combined – and we won.
The line-up saw Jackson start, with Llera returning at the expense of Sodje(S), Reid and Sam taking the wide berths, pairing Bailey and Racon together in the centre. Parkinson kept the 4-4-2 and revived the Burton and Mooney partnership. And overall all of the selections worked. After one bad moment in the first half Jackson did well enough, Llera made a number of timely interceptions (and Dailly looked more assured alongside him), Bailey and Racon together gave us better balance (and the switch to looking to play passes rather than hit aimless balls forward meant he was much more effective), Burton had a far better game than on Monday night (which might not be saying much), the two wingers created problems all afternoon (with of course one scoring), and Mooney worked intelligently (and scored). You can never be sure on the basis of one game, but there was enough to suggest that it will be the same team on Tuesday night.
The first half was open and entertaining, although we did allow them more decent chances than anyone in red would have liked. The first of these saw a cross from the right and their forward coming between two defenders to shoot, with Elliot saving well with his leg. Not long after we had a better opportunity, as neat play saw Bailey freed breaking through with only their keeper to beat. Should have been buried, but the effort was smothered (and it has to be said that a feature of the first half was some wayward passing by Bailey). They also had a free header from a corner and another shot smartly saved by Elliot, but we made the breakthrough as good work by Bailey and others to win the ball just outside our box saw us break clear with what looked like five on three. Reid carried the ball forward and when it seemed he must pass to someone in space as their defenders backed off instead he unleashed a curling drive into the top of the net.
On the balance of chances we were perhaps fortunate to be ahead at the break, but our play always seemed to carry more threat than theirs. And after an even start to the second period we managed to get a little elbow room with a second. Sam and Racon jinked around as we waited to throw the ball into play – and to very good effect as suddenly Racon found himself in space turning into their area. He pulled it back and Mooney coming in finished it well.
For a few minutes after that we had more of a strut about us, as if the pressure had been taken away. But a slight relaxation gave them encouragement and created a spell of pressure which saw us if not hanging on then pressed back, with Llera standing out with some fine work and Elliot making a few more saves. But we managed to weather the storm and as the game entered the final 15 minutes we were pretty comfortable. Wagstaff came on for a tiring Sam, although by then, with Reid tiring too, it was pretty much a case of taking what we had (although Burton and Mooney both missed chances to extend the lead). Semedo replaced Racon just before the end and there was just time for one of the silliest pieces of running down the clock you will see. In stoppage time, 2-0 up, we get a free kick. Instead of a ball in to look for a third (we could hardly lose at that stage) we tried we tried some fancy stuff, lost possession and as their guy broke forward picked up a totally unnecessary yellow card in stopping him. That was taking one for the team.
Elliot: 9/10. Didn’t have a perfect game as one time he failed to stop a ball going for a corner and one or two clearances were iffy. But if that’s all you criticise your goalkeeper for you know things are fine in that department. Three good saves in the first half were just as instrumental in the victory as the goals scored.
Richardson: 7/10. Decent display, no complaints.
Jackson: 6/10. Did well having just arrived. Caught out badly once in the first half but otherwise settled in well.
Llera: 8/10. Deserves a good mark for coming back in and not obviously putting a foot wrong. When he plays well he looks commanding and assured.
Dailly: 7/10. Seemed more comfortable than of late alongside Sodje. But still a bit of a mystery why Yeovil created a number of good chances.
Reid: 8/10. Made himself available and troubled them for most of the game before understandably fading late on. Super shot for the goal.
Bailey: 6/10. Some poor passing, especially in the first half, gave the ball away badly once in the second, and didn’t score with his one-on-one. But also won the ball well on occasions and remains a pivotal part of the team.
Racon: 8/10. Although Elliot gets a higher mark, I made Racon my man of the match. Much more involved than in recent games, given the change in style. Not everything worked, but he made things happen, especially for the second goal.
Sam: 7/10. He’s always going to be a bit frustrating as he usually looks like having the beating of the full back and doesn’t always make it count. Good game but not a decisive contribution.
Mooney: 8/10. Operated as much in the hole as the second striker and his mobility helped create space. Could have been man of the match if he hadn’t messed up a couple of shots after having scored well.
Burton: 7/10. Much better. Good hold-up play, but didn’t score when he had the chance in the second half.