Once upon a time Yeovil were synonymous with cup upsets and nothing more. Oh, how times change. As we ‘enjoyed’ a spell in the National League they ascended to the Championship. Our trip there Saturday could, in some quarters, be viewed as David (Lincoln) versus a fallen Goliath (Yeovil).
The truth is perhaps a little more complex, they’re a small club that enjoyed a spell in the sun but it has come to an end. Championship football is all well and good but for sides such as Yeovil but without infrastructure and backing it will never be sustainable. Look at Scunthorpe, Peterborough, Rotherham and those sorts of teams. The sun rises, it sets and before long you’re playing host to Lincoln City again.
They’re not having a great season either, they currently lie 18th in the division although their home form isn’t bad. They’ve only been beaten twice at home thus far this season, winning four and drawing four. That eclipses our home form, so at Huish Park they’re play-off quality. On their travels they’re poor, but as they’re hosts this weekend it does pose a significant challenge to City.
They’ve beaten both Coventry and Accrington at home proving the quality they possess, they’ve lost to Colchester and Swindon both of whom are mid-table. There’s little to be gained from raking over form too much, but those wins against top seven sides shows that on their own grass they’ll match anyone.
Their current form isn’t great, not if we take out the cup matches. They’ve won just one in eight in the league, a fine but fiery 3-0 win against Stevenage in which they had two players sent off. In the eight game run then they’ve at lost to Carlisle (4-0), Wycombe and Cambridge as well as the home defeat against Swindon. They’ve shared a credible draw with Notts County as well as Barnet and Port Vale. Their cup form has been better winning in the FA Cup against Southend as well as the FLT against both Plymouth and latterly Wimbledon.
The 3-0 win against Stevenage was curious as Olufela Olomola and Francois Zoko were both dismissed, arguably their strongest goal threats. Olomola is on loan from Southampton and he’s had a fine season so far, the red card being the only real blot on his copybook. He’s scored seven in 22 games although since the red card he hasn’t scored, leaving him on a run of one in the last nine games. He has stepped up to League Two after featuring four times in the EFL Trophy last season for Southampton, scoring twice. He is perhaps on of the examples of the Checkatrade Trophy helping to develop younger players.
Alongside him up top is the imposing figure of Zoko. He’s a veteran of 34-years old but he’s still very much a threat. Formerly of Nancy, Notts County and Carlisle he understands the game at this level and has also scored seven in 22. That’s 14 goals between the pair of them, a decent return for a side in 18th position.
Surridge seems to be in the thick of all the action for them and he’ll be one to watch out for outside of the two better known players.
Another player to look out for is on-loan Bournemouth player Sam Surridge (pictured top). He’s 6’3 and often acts as the ‘get out’ should Yeovil need it, plus he’s got a goal in him too. He’s 19 and full of energy and at present has played 26 times for the Glovers, scoring five. Surridge also has three assists, equal with Ryan Dickson and the vastly under-rated Otis Khan. He’s their most fouled player, he’s been offended against 28 times, but he’s doled out 33 fouls of his own making him their third worst offender behind Zoko and former Derby midfielder James Bailey. Surridge seems to be in the thick of all the action for them and he’ll be one to watch out for outside of the two better known players.
Finally, lets not forget defender Nathan Smith. He signed for Yeovil from Chesterfield whilst they were a League One side and has been with the club for a few seasons now. He’s one of the players Danny would refer to as being a ‘League One player’ and his experience is vital, not that it stopped them shipping eight goals on the opening day of the season.
What type of match can we expect on Saturday? Below is a graphic showing when Yeovil tend to score at home and when they tend to concede.
At home Yeovil tend to score more in the first half and concede in the second. As we’ve seen from their player stats, scoring isn’t the issue but keeping the opposition out is. Contrast that with City playing away, we rarely score in the first half but seem to come alive in the second. We do seem to concede most of our goals before half time too, meaning we essentially fit in with the pattern of Yeovil’s play. Everything points to them scoring in the first half, us equalising in the second and the game ending up as a 1-1 draw.
The final graphic really echos the shouts for a 1-1 draw. We both average around a goal per game scored and conceded, although if anyone looks likely to snatch it 2-1 it will be them. Surprisingly, we have more shots away from home than they have at home, a testament to the fact we always go away and ‘give it a good go’. That could be crucial in deciding the result, when sides do go at Yeovil they can collapse, as shown in heavy defeats by Luton (8-2) and Carlisle (4-0). In the Carlisle game they were 2-0 down until they had a man sent off and conceded a penalty in the same foul, so perhaps it is a little unfair to see ‘conceded four’ and assume they collapsed.
Looking at the cards and fouls, both sides like to indulge in the physical side of the game too. John Coleman was awfully critical of City on Tuesday but we’re no worse than most teams. I get the feeling Darren Wray’s side are more aggressive than Accrington, perhaps a little more honest too. I wouldn’t expect to see the same amount of simulation, certainly not on their home soil. Yeovil have collected 38 yellow cards in League action this season, one more than us with 37. They’ve also seen red on four occasions with us having a man sent off twice (Matt Green and Billy Knott). They’re not going to let themselves be bullied and neither are we, meaning a full-blooded encounter if nothing else.
So, who is the man in middle of this gutsy battle? Lee Collins is our match referee, one of the more experienced refs on the circuit. He’s been officiating Football League games since 2011/12, but over the last two seasons he’s reffed considerably fewer games than most. He took charge of ten in total last campaign, six in League Two, two in League One and a couple of cup games. This season he’s looked after just six games, four in League Two and two in cups. He’s never taken charge of a City game and in his last two outings he hasn’t shown a single card.
We’ve covered their threat, the form, the stats and the referee, the only possible thing to look at now is the history between the two sides. I have very clear recollections of two final day matches against Yeovil, one we lost 3-2 but made the play-offs anyway and the other we lost 3-0 but made the play-offs anyway. Those two matches are half of our total clashes, we’ve played four, won one and lost three. In all the games we lost we conceded three (the other was a 3-1 defeat in our first ever meet) and in the one we won, we scored three. In four games there’s been sixteen goals scored, ten for Yeovil and six for Lincoln. Only once has either side kept a clean sheet, their final day 3-0 win in 2005 saw them crowned champions. Efe Sodje (there’s a blast from the past, eh?) and Phil Jevons grabbed the goals. We went on to beat Macclesfield in a two-legged semi-final only to lose to Southend in the final. In truth only two of our clashes have ever been anything more than dead rubber games, those critical games shared evenly at one win each.
As for Saturday, it could go either way. The stats suggest a 1-1 draw or perhaps a narrow 2-1 win for them, but my gut instinct tells me we might just edge them, 2-1. The stats claim we’ll have to come from behind after they score an early first half goal to, so the trick might be in keeping it tight and compact for the first 45 and going for the kill afterwards. Whatever happens, it does promise to be a proper League Two tie, a wintery clash dogged by bad weather, tough tackles and a sub-3,000 crowd. Enjoy.