“We’ve been lacking a proper Westcountry derby for a few years now, so it’s great to finally have one”
Jonny Jones – @jonny_jones
This season marks the return of league encounters with our Somerset neighbours, and the prospect of a proper Westcountry derby is on the cards once more (yes, for many reasons I don’t count Truro as a proper derby – bring some fans next time!).
There aren’t many things better than festive football, especially against local rivals. 70 miles doesn’t quite qualify as “up the road”, but it does if you’re a Gulls fan! With this in mind, I thought I’d take a look back at our past encounters with the Glovers and explore how are paths seem to have been disparate for so long, until now…
Our last meeting in all competitions was in the 2012 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, where we lost on penalties after a 2-2 draw, Matt Jarvis got a brace that night. Before that, in 2007 we had a famous 4-1 win in the FA Cup in front of the live BBC cameras. United went behind to an early Marcus Stewart goal, before tearing the then, League One Glovers apart. Danny Stevens scored a couple of crackers. It was a United side on the crest of a wave, and we wouldn’t have to wait too long before were back in the League again (let’s forget about what happened in the play-offs that season!).
League games against Yeovil Town have been isolated to just one season. Cast your minds back to a simpler time, BREXIT wasn’t a thing, not everyone had internet that worked, and Torquay United were tearing up a division to the tune of Fowler, Russell and Graham. Yes, I’m talking about the 2003/2004 edition of the Football League Division Three, I’m sure you can remember it.
Stalwarts of non-league since their inception, a certain bloke called Gary Johnson was tasked with taking the Glovers to the Football League for the first time in 2001. It took him two seasons to crack it, winning the Conference by a record points margin and with an unbeaten home record. If that’s not a sign of a top-class manager I don’t know what is. Who would have thought that more than 15 years later, he would be attempting to repeat one of the toughest tasks in English football with Torquay?
United had been boosted by a new manager themselves. Leroy Rosenior arrived in the summer of 2002 and consolidated a ninth-place finish that season; a marked improvement on the 19th place from the previous campaign under Roy McFarland.
The 27th September 2003 would be the first ever league encounter between the two sides. More than 1500 Yellows travelled up the A303 to bolster a gate of more than 7000. So many figures of the line up that day would make my all-time Gulls XI; it was easy supporting us back then! Arjan van Heusden in goal, (I’m told he is the only Dutchman to play for Torquay until the arrival of Manny Duku this summer,). A back five of McGlinchey, Woods, Williamson, Canoville and Hockley. A three in midfield of Fowler, Russell and Hill. All of that topped with David Graham and Jo Kuffour upfront. It would be goals from these two potent strikers that sealed a 2-0 win. Whisper it quietly but United meant business.
A notable member of Yeovil’s team that day was Lee Johnson, Gary’s son, and now of course Bristol City manager. A relationship between us and City has certainly blossomed over the last year, and the inlet of young talent has been a huge asset for us. I’m delighted to have kept hold of Jake Andrews on a permanent deal. If I was being greedy, I like to see either Connor Lemonheigh-Evans or Saikou Janneh back with us next season. Janneh in particular looks a League player, and I’d love to see him have a crack at it next season. He’s more than welcome back at Plainmoor, though…
The reverse fixture at Plainmoor, and the last time the two sides met in the league, was far from one-way traffic. The 3rd April 2004 was a big day at the top of the table. Both United and Yeovil were fighting to stay in touch with the automatic and play-off spots respectively.
The Glovers got off to a blazing start, grabbing a two-goal lead through Darren Way and Jake Edwards before half an hour. United’s Craig Taylor pulled a goal back at ‘the perfect time’, just before the interval. Just as Plainmoor was getting nervy, it would be our other centre half, Steve Woods, who produced the equaliser on the hour. It would end 2-2, probably not what neither Rosenior or Johnson wanted before kick-off, but how precious did that point prove to be at the end of the season for United.
Both of the sides’ fates would be decided on goal difference. We were to nab the last automatic promotion place at Roots Hall on the final day, pipping Huddersfield Town (whatever happened to them by the way?) who could only manage a draw at Cheltenham. Meanwhile, Yeovil missed out the last play-off spot despite beating Lincoln City at Sincil Bank.
Many ups and downs have occurred since then – probably more downs for us! Both clubs find themselves in a division that they desperately want to get out of. Yeovil will know how hard it is to do just that, and you don’t need to remind anyone from South Devon how long we’ve been outside of the top 92. The difference now for United is they possess the magic of Johnson in charge and will feel like they are on an upward trajectory again. Yeovil on the other hand, will need to steady the sinking ship to mount a challenge for an immediate return to the League.
If face value signings are anything to go by, Yeovil are intent on going back up at the first time of asking. Ex-Gull Rhys Murphy, fresh from 28 league goals last season, has been added as a number 9. There’s been mixed reactions to this one. Some say you shouldn’t judge a player in a poor team, and to a certain extent you’re right. Look at Jamie Reid’s transformation last season in a rejuvenated squad. For me, I don’t think he’ll notch anywhere near that in the National League. Nobody needs reminding of how crap we were under Gary Owers, but he never looked like a top striker. I’ll never forget the sitter he missed away at Dagenham, a game we went on to lose in the last minute.
Whatever the other incomings before the start of the season, its two fixtures I can’t wait for. I’ve never been to Huish Park, so it will be good to get that one ticked off – I just hope it’s a dry day! We’ll no doubt take a big following with us, looking to recreate atmospheres like Bath, Woking, and Weston last season, minus any wheelie bins of course. We’ve been lacking a proper Westcountry derby for a few years now, so it’s great to finally have one. Depending on how the season goes, it may prove to be just a warm-up for the real deal next season…
Torquay United V Yeovil Town – Highlights