You can’t win five on the bounce in this league unless you are by some distance better than other teams or you get some luck. I’ll take a win by any means any day of the week, but the fact is that in terms of quality, chances created, opportunities to win, this one was about equal, between the team second and that second from bottom. It was a game that, given the league positions, we would have been disappointed not to win, but also one that for a period we would have settled for a point. And while the highlights will look good quality was in short supply through most of the game. We could as easily have lost as won and at the moment I’m not quite sure what that says about us (and Yeovil, but that’s for others to speculate on). I’m delighted with the response to the Brighton game, with our league position, and with the prospect that a promotion challenge is looking increasingly likely (well, we are second and closing the gap). Nobody’s pretending that we can consistently roll over teams in the fashion of a week ago. But then maybe I’m just a miserable old git; it’s a game of fine margins and we’ve just won a five-goal thriller, so as ever we take it and move on.
The unavailability of Anyinsah and Wagstaff meant some selection decisions and some restriction of options. Parkinson went for Benson and Martin up front, as for most of last Saturday’s game, with Reid operating down the right and Jackson on the left side. The rest of the team picked itself.
There’s no question that Yeovil started the brighter, with no intention of a defensive approach. Their cause was helped by some very uncertain defending in the early stages, with Doherty looking particularly capable. We were struggling to find any sort of rhythm or midfield control. So of course we simply scored a goal out of keeping with what had gone before. A throw-in was knocked on to Martin, who took it down the right side and delivered a peach of a ball in. Jackson timed his run to perfection and while the strike wasn’t clean it sent the ball into the corner of the net. That all suggested that whatever their qualities Yeovil had a soft underbelly. And so it was to prove.
I thought that goal might knock the stuffing out of them, but instead they levelled the game not long after. A ball through was blocked but their guy was alert to a hole between our defenders and ran into it, before shooting low into the bottom corner. As the game progressed it was surprising that so much was aimless, but good chances continued to be created at either end. Martin danced through and shot just wide, Benson curled one just past the far post, and he got on the end of a free kick but put it over the bar. They had their moments too, but on balance during this period we were just about getting on top. And we went back into the lead as Racon found himself in space inside the box and hit a shot on the turn. It was a splendid finish, In fact all three goals had a quality about them that belied the indifference of much of the play. There was still time before the break for Yeovil to almost level again, but Elliot turned aside a goalbound shot.
Ahead at the break, the question seemed to be whether we would get another and run out comfortable winners. But Yeovil to their credit continued to take the game to us and had another period of if not dominance one where they were tending to win the challenges and if anything play the better football. They got their reward when Dailly was penalised; the free kick was muffed, but instead of clearing the lines Racon miskicked and the ball went straight to their guy, who promptly buried it into the top of the net.
OK, things aren’t going well and we need to go out again and win the game. Benson and Martin together up front were having good moments, but without control of the game and too many balls played aimlessly forward there was a case for a more physical presence. I thought it was the right move to bring on Sodje, move Martin out wide, and switch Reid to the left, where he might be more effective. And that was what Parkinson did, taking off Fry and dropping Jackson back. Only problem was that the strategy went out of the window shortly after as Dailly picked up a straight red.
I thought Dailly was unlucky, but it wasn’t a dreadful decision by the referee. The way I saw it, the ball was played over Dailly’s head and running sideways with the ball over his shoulder he jumped and probably did connect with his arm to their guy’s face. There was nothing malicious or intentional, just one of those moments when it’s down to the ref’s interpretation. He’d been a fussy git all afternoon and had given most of the decisions their way. He could have decided it was nothing, or given a yellow card. Instead out came the red and suddenly we were not only level but a man short against a team that had already created enough to suggest that we would have trouble holding out.
Fortune came on for Reid to shore up the defence, with a narrower three in midfield. At that point I would have taken the point, but the game took another twist in an instant. A ball into the box found Sodje the right side of the defender, who manhandled him to the ground. It was a clear penalty and an obvious red card. Their keeper clearly hadn’t read the match programme, in which Jackson talked about his spot kick against Peterborough, and the same sort of shot produced the same end-result. In an instant we were in front and with equality of players restored.
There were still about 10 minutes plus stoppage time to play out, but the period was negotiated reasonably comfortably, despite an odd back pass, helped by Fortune slotting in very effectively. McCormack came on for Martin to shore things up. Nobody in red wanted another twist to a strange afternoon and there wasn’t to be one. Cue Elliot’s celebration, booing of the ref, and a welcome glass. It was far from perfect all round, we didn’t play as well as in some other games, but another three points in the bag and another home game coming up. I’ll settle for that.
Elliot: 8/10. No chance with either goal and at least one excellent save before half-time. Otherwise commanding after his splendid performance on Tuesday.
Francis: 6/10. Got tricked down the line a couple of times, but generally seemed OK. But the defence overall was edgy today.
Fry: 6/10. Much the same. No obvious mistakes and no criticism of him to be taken off to change the team around.
Doherty: 5/10. Perhaps a little unfair, but in the first 30 minutes or so he seemed to me very shaky and it had a generally unsettling effect on the defence. But improved as the game went on.
Dailly: 6/10. Has to lose a mark for the red card, which could have cost us the game. I think it was just one of those moments where he was caught unbalanced and made a clumsy challenge. Losing him for three games is going to hurt.
Reid: 6/10. Good moments as usual, but didn’t look comfortable on the right side and when defending had one horrible moment where he let the ball run and let their guy in.
Semedo: 7/10. Solid enough, but we didn’t control midfield. Also, got into a good position twice in the second half and elected not to shoot. Go on Jose, have a punt.
Racon: 6/10. Took his goal well, but also takes the rap for their second as he made a hash of the clearance.
Jackson: 8/10. Let’s given him the man of the match today. Two goals in successive games (now top scorer), wide left, then back to full back. And when the penalty came along he made no mistake.
Benson: 7/10. Unlucky not to score in the first half but with too many hopeful balls forward struggled as the main target man. Hope the lack of Valley goals doesn’t become an issue.
Martin: 7/10. Great ball in for the first goal and caused them problems. Like Benson wasn’t in the game as much in the second half.
Subs: Sodje (7/10 – made a difference when he came on and he got the penalty which turned the game in our favour); Fortune (7/10 – good contribution coming on at a difficult time, won most of the challenges); McCormack (not enough time for a rating, but contributed in the time-wasting before the end).