It’s too early into the season to really be reading too much into the last week’s defeat – it was, after all, effectively decided by a goalkeeping blunder – but it wasn’t so far below the level of performance we’d seen at times this season to be able to brush it off as a one-off.
The question is whether the balance of the starting XI is quite right at the moment. Players like Peter Vincenti, Michael Doyle and Chris Stokes are undoubtedly useful players to have, but against Newport, we needed more players like Ben Stevenson, Tony Andreu and Duckens Nazon on the pitch for the 90 minutes to open the game up against determined opposition.
The plus side, is that we’ve seen that we have players available who can add the dynamism and creativity we’ve lacked at times this season, the question is whether Robins can find room for enough of them in his tactics without going too far the opposite way. In this upcoming game against a defensively porous Yeovil side, this could be an opportunity to unleash a more creative line-up.
Which players and where they are used is the selection headache for Mark Robins this week. Tony Andreu made the most compelling case to start this game after he injected from the bench some much needed thrust to a lifeless performance against Newport. While his inclusion will probably necessitate the dropping of a striker, Andreu’s mobility, drive, and, most importantly, creativity adds a missing element to the side in place of a strike partnership of Beavon and McNulty that simply hasn’t worked thus far.
Of the two strikers, Beavon is probably the most likely to be dropped given that McNulty is more likely to thrive off Andreu’s creative presence. Given that this is an away game, I doubt that Stevenson and Nazon will be started ahead of the more solid Liam Kelly and Peter Vincenti, despite poor performances last week. It would possibly be a mistake to go from an overly solid starting XI to a more flair one a week later.
There is a decision to be made over whether to back Liam O’Brien in goal after last week’s rick against Newport, or to restore Lee Burge to the starting line-up. While the intention this summer was clearly for O’Brien to be Burge’s back-up, O’Brien has been solid enough since coming into the side to warrant his run in the side prior to the error. Unless Robins is certain that Burge is a massive improvement on O’Brien, it sets a dangerous precedent to drop a keeper after one high-profile error and thus O’Brien should be given at least one chance to show he’s learned from his mistake.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting in the league against Yeovil was a dismal 0-0 draw at Huish Park in the final days of Steven Pressley’s reign as manager, featuring a penalty miss from Gary Madine, which saw us sink further into relegation danger.
More recently, we faced Yeovil in the then Johnstone’s Paint Trophy during Tony Mowbray’s first full season in charge. A heavily-changed Sky Blues side laboured to a 0-0 draw and a defeat on penalties away to Yeovil. It was a game probably most notable for being the much-loved Ivor Lawton’s one and only appearance for the club and also for a cameo from none other than Lateef Elford-Alliyu.
How Are They Doing?
Despite having been in the Championship as recently as the 2013/14 season, Yeovil Town have quickly settled down in recent seasons into a status as perennial strugglers in League Two. An 8-2 defeat to Luton Town on the opening day looms large over the club, and although they recovered a week later to beat Accrington 3-2, they blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads last week at Forest Green to lose 4-3, suggesting that their mentality is still fragile.
For manager Darren Way, it has been a struggle over the past few months to find the right balance between defence and attack. Having started last season so well with a counter-attacking game based on the skills of Otis Khan and Ryan Hedges (now at Barnsley) out wide, losing those two saw the team struggle for an attacking threat and Way subsequently made the team overly defensive in order to eke out the results required to survive. However, in an attempt to restore an attacking threat over the summer, that defensive solidity has been completely lost.
On the plus side for Yeovil, their attacking play has been pretty impressive this season. The return of the aforementioned Otis Khan to full fitness has supplied the team with a pacey, industrious and direct wide player capable of getting among the goals. Khan forms a front three with lower-league journeyman maverick Francois Zoko and pacey Southampton loanee Olufela Olomola. Thus far this season, Khan has two goals, and both Zoko and Olomola have three.
Ex-Luton and Crystal Palace winger Jake Gray is another to look out for, although he has been sacrificed by Darren Way in an attempt to find balance between defence and attack. Yeovil also brought in former Sky Blues midfielder James Bailey, who impressed on loan here and has subsequently seen his career decline in ever-decreasing circles.
While Yeovil’s defence is clearly an issue, goalkeeper Artur Krysiak has been a good player at this level in the past and was an important part of when Yeovil were tighter at the back last season. Left-back/centre-back Nathan Smith is similarly another decent performer at this level who was solid as part of Yeovil’s defence last season.
As mentioned earlier, Yeovil’s defensive shortcomings could make this a good opportunity for us to find some fluency in attack. However, Yeovil’s attacking threat leaves the danger that they could catch us cold and score enough goals to render their defensive ineptitude moot. Additionally, their manager’s seemingly increasingly desperate attempts to find the right balance could see them set-up in a way completely unanticipated by Robins. While this is clearly a winnable game for us, there are still reasons to be wary of our opponents.
Nonetheless, I still feel that there is more than enough quality within our ranks to overcome Yeovil Town and this is a game I expect us to win. As for a scoreline, 3-1.