Ben Barrett Sports Writing

Sports Writer and Yeovil Town Fan

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Am I dreaming.. or am I just going MADD?

Posted by Ben Barrett on January 13, 2013 at 7:45 AM

Out of the cup, dreaming of the top and bad puns like that.
The week in words for Yeovil Town

The first Sunday morning after a week that Yeovil Town fans will look back on with equal measures of elation and despair.

The proverbial rollercoaster ride has parked up in south Somerset once more, ensuring that it is never boring being a Yeovil Town fan.

From Tuesday against Leyton Orient to Saturday vs. Sheffield United, us Glovers have ticked just about every emotional box.

This was the week that was…

So, we’ll start with Tuesday and I guess it’s only right to start by hammering home the excellent work done by board members, sponsors and Gary Johnson himself to get 11 coaches, two minibuses and two nutters from the north to get themselves to East London.

815 travelling fans packed into the Matchroom Stadium with an expectancy, a hope that despite the lack of glamour to the trophy, the JPT was not only still in our sights but a real chance for silverware and a Wembley final.

The visiting fans were loud and proud. Much better than anything the home side had to offer, the football did not live up to the hype.

Neither side were any good, I’m not going to sit here and hammer Yeovil; we were awful, they were awful.

Both sides seemed intent on not losing – not making that vital mistake that cost their side the game – neither side played anything on the deck and both looked nervous.

Two of the less fashionable sides in League One were playing for a two legged game against a League Two team for a chance at a Wembley final, I guess nerves were to be expected.

It was only going to take one moment, one heart wrenching, played out in slow motion, extending the trip home by a long time… moment, to secure the win.

I guess David Mooney couldn’t have picked a better spot, the only spot Marek Stech couldn’t reach.

For all the pain and despair, something – I don’t know what – felt like it had still been a success.

We were out of the cup at the penultimate hurdle and it stung, but the support seemed to suggest we’d be alright.

What we needed was a nice, easy home game against someone we could put four or five past.

What we had was Sheffield United, away.


Our squad is threadbare at the best of times, but during the Leyton Orient game Ed Upson, Dom Blizzard, Byron Webster and Sam Foley had all had treatment on injuries; the Blades hadn’t had a midweek fixture so were well rested, add on top of that the knowledge that 20,000 home fans would be behind their side and that our form against the top seven is, well, naff and the script was pretty much written.

We’d be giving debuts to two lads without much recent football and despite rumours of a couple additions they had come to nothing.

Hands up, who went into this game thinking anything other than we’d get beat, go-on own up.

Not me, I thought we’d put up a fight but the likes of Dave Kitson and Danny Higginbotham should not be in League One – their class would show through and we’d be on the end of a hiding.

Well, here goes. My Name Is Ben Barrett and I was very, very wrong.

But, even as I sat in the stands – blind optimism had a “Madden first goal and a 1-1 draw” bet in my pocket, there was just something about the atmosphere. You just didnt know what was about to happen.

A year to the weekend that Gary returned, just how far had we come in a year? Heck, how far had we come in 4 days?

The Sheffield United side complete with players on triple or quadruple what our boys are on, with a squad big enough to put two decent sides out and fans in numbers we can only dream of – were outplayed, outwitted and out supported.

Let’s start at the back and work our way forward.

Marek Stech won’t play against many top sides and get bored. He was calm and assured when called upon, but I don’t remember him having to even make one of his point winning saves. A bored ‘keeper is a good thing.

The reason Stech had time to think about a tricky Sudoku puzzle that had troubled him on the bus was because of the four men in front of him.

Ayling and McAllister in full back positions were on form, we’ve had our issues with positioning and aerial ability for these two, but they both seemed to be performing in sync with everyone else.

McAllister was a captain too, he was notably pointing and shouting all the time – I don’t think I noticed it on Tuesday – people were responding; Sam Foley did get back when asked, Kevin Dawson did mark the wide lad when he was told to. Some really good, crisp defensive teamwork.

The centre backs were different class, I felt it harsh on Rich Hinds who was probably our best player on Tuesday, but Dan Burn and Big, Bad Byron were something else.

If they’re reading this, they are doing so with a serious headache. The reason Kitson was anonymous, the reason that nothing troubled Marek Stech is that these two were always in the way. From the opening exchanges until the 93rd minute block on the goal line by Burn both of these two were immense.

(A moment here for the “Byron's gunna get ya” chant… good work.)

Into midfield and I’m not sure Foley nor Dawson are natural widemen, but they both impressed me.

Everyone knows my ever increasing love for Foley; he makes things happen, he gets a move going, he turns a defensive situation into an attacking one at the drop of the hat. Please, please get that man on a longer deal. Even if we don’t keep him for the entire length of the contract, he’ll be worth money and clubs at higher levels will want him.

Dawson on the other side was playing like he had been in that side since day one. He missed out on my ‘top three’ in the car on the way home, but more I think about it, the more I think he might get in if I were to pick again.

Like his Jedward team mate, Paddy Madden, he worked his backside off, ran down every full back and went into tackles with confidence and gusto.

He stuck to his position, it’s almost a criticism that we didn’t find him enough in acres of space in the first half, but once the United left back remembered he had a job to do, all that did was open huge holes for the attackers to get in.

Maybe it was a bit of momentum in an extraordinary game for a debut that carried Dawson a bit, but performances like that every week are going to see him play an increasingly important role over the season. Fitness and confidence will come off the back of more minutes and more success.

I think the same applies to young Dolan, he did everything neatly and tidily, he got himself booked for a silly foul and Gary has said he took a knock himself, which might have prevented us from seeing his full array of passing and skills, but I’m certainly not moaning, he did what he had to do and he did it well.

As for Upson and Blizzard for the final ten, well, you know what you’re going to get – effort and a competent performance. You can ask no more, with those around them providing the attacking flair and creating the chances, it was up to someone to keep their responsible head on. I think Upson is moulding himself into that.

Not as deep as Paul Wotton ever was and he still loves a well-timed surge into the box, but with Foley, Dawson, Madden and Hayter (and even Webster and Ayling) all flying forward he knew not to get excited and leave us exposed.

So to the front men, I’ll deal with Mr Madden in a moment, but James Hayter works as hard as anyone, he’s put in a lot of effort recently missing only seven minutes since his mini spell out of the side in December.

I thought he looked a bit lost on Tuesday, without a proper partner and without much to feed off other than long hopeful hoofs.

But today, with Madden by his side and a midfield firing on all cylinders, he was able to bring the ball down, get others involved in play and get a shot or two off. We’ll need him to stay fit and at this level of preformance, especially if Reuben Reid doesn’t have a future and nobody is going to come in.

Time to do the PadMad.

Run around your front room, arms stretched out either side of you, talk in an Irish accent and boom, you have the PadMad. Do it, I’ll wait…

Right, very good, you can clean up the plant pot you knocked over later.

Any Carlisle fans who have stumbled across this should know it’s going to get a bit mushy, but as many have said to me on Twitter, it wasn’t working out for him up there, it was down here. So, fair play to him.

He runs, a basic requirement I’ll agree, but when it comes to this division having someone who will put a shift in regardless of opposition or ability and you’re onto a winner. I'd love to know the distance the front man covers in a 90 minute spell.

It helps in Paddy’s case that he also has ability, 12 goals for the season now, not bad for a man who didn’t kick a ball in anger until he joined us.

The TV and Newspapers will pick up on the United ‘keeper and his howler, but there wouldn’t have been a howler if Madden hadn’t put him under pressure. He’s done it before, too. A mislaid back pass against Orient got him a goal - His own pressure again – and earlier in the game on Saturday he worked a defender into slicing a header into his path leaving him one on one.

He’s got the effort, he’s got the ability and now he’s got the confidence.

He knows he is going to get picked every week, he knows he’s got people around him who work well with him. He’s mentioned his relationships with Hayter, Dawson and even Webster in interviews and that can only be a good thing.

Again, it’ll be about managing fitness, the last thing you need is an injury or anything, but I guess that’s the same for every side and their star men.

We deserved it yesterday; Gary Johnson said it, Danny Wilson said it, my mate Ryan (a Sheffield United fan) said it and big Leroy said it on the Football League show.

There seems to be a wind of change, maybe I’m jumping the gun a tiny bit, but for the first season in I don’t know how long, we’re not ‘little old Yeovil’ any more, we’re not the plucky non-league side who got a bit ahead of themselves.

“Judge us after 10 games” they say. “Judge us in 10 more” “We’ll see where we are at Christmas” – well, we’ve had all those cliché ridden milestones and guess what, we’re 8th.

EIGHTH. On merit too, on effort and on course for a really good end to the season.

I’m not going to say the P-word, I don’t need to; you’ve already thought it.

We’ve got the one remaining duck off our back, winning away at one of the top sides, we came so close at Tranmere and threw it away, but yesterday - to quote Dan Burn’s tweet – we showed we are as good as anyone on our day.

So, happy anniversary to my favourite couple, Yeovil Town and Gary Johnson.

It’s been fun this year; it’s been fun this week.

Personally, I’ve travelled from York to Leyton Orient (Via Preston) and back, then onto Sheffield. I’m a little bit mental, or maybe I just don’t want to miss a minute of this season.

The overriding theme is – you just never know.

Disclaimer: If we finish 12th, that *STILL* a success, let’s get that straight, it’s progression.

But now we’re within touching distance of the P-words, it would be rude not to have a go.

Strap yourselves in; it’s going to have some ups like Brammall Lane and some downs like Brisbane Road.

But you know how the old joke goes… An English [manager], an Irish [striker] and a Scottish [captain] walk into a bar [just outside Wembley]

I’ve said too much. Yes I’m dreaming. No, I’m not expecting and my feet are firmly planted.

But enjoying it never hurt anyone.

Across two 'Team of the Day' line ups, from The Sun (right) and the Football League Paper, Yeovil had no fewer than five players that made the cut. Madden made both and Gary Johnson got the top boss too.


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