How times have changed. So many times in the past the FA Cup giant-killers, Yeovil Town, now stalwart members of League One were knocked out themselves this evening, at home in an FA Cup Second Round replay, by a non-league club. The Glovers had been comfortable in the first match against Blue Square Premier promotion chasers Fleetwood Town with a two goal lead, but two late Fleetwood goals earned a replay at Huish Park and this evening the non-league club finished off the job with a two goal win that hands them arguably the tie of their dreams at the start of January.
While two divisions separate these two sides for the time being, they could yet be playing each other in League Two next season. Yeovil Town are just two points and two places off a relegation place in League One, and have financial pressures of their own. Fleetwood Town, on the other hand, sit in second place in the Blue Square Premier, three points behind leaders Wrexham but with a game in hand, their recent success funded by the property developer, who has partnered the club’s on-field success with development of the club’s Highbury ground. On the basis of this evening’s match, though, it was clear which was the stronger of these two sides.
A goal in each half from Jamie McGuire and Jamie Vardy was enough to see Fleetwood through to the next round of the competition, but the two-nil scoreline barely reflected the extent of the non-league side’s supremacy on the pitch. Both sides were also reduced to ten players, with Yeovil’s Bondz N’Gala and the Fleetwood’s Steve McNulty earning themselves two yellow cards a piece, but even this didn’t reflect the advantage that came to Fleetwood. N’Gala had sailed close to the wind a couple of times before he was dismissed with a little over twenty minutes to play, while McNulty’s came with the clock running down.
Fleetwood’s reward for this win is to set up a Fylde Coast local derby match against Blackpool in the next round of the competition. With the decisions regarding the live televised matches already having already been made, there will be no special treatment for this match, but it will at least excite the population of two towns that are just seven miles apart. With local pride at stake, it would seem foolish for the Blackpool manager Ian Holloway to take the match too lightly. As he will have seen this evening, Fleetwood are a very strong team and, no matter how much he may prefer to focus on the race to get back into the Premier League, have demonstrated that they deserve full respect on the pitch – after all, Fleetwood Town are unbeaten in the league since the eleventh of October.
On the pitch at least, Yeovil Town’s fortunes have changed over the last six weeks or so. Going into tonight’s match, Yeovil had been unbeaten since the start of November, a run of results which dragged the club up out of the relegation places in League One. Off the pitch, however, there are concerns over the club’s well-being. It’s a subject that we will be returning to shortly, but many supporters have raised concerns over a recent commercial deal with Blue Skies International, the artificial turf company recently also linked with Port Vale. Crowds have slumped and, with a feeling of tension in the air over Huish Park, it does rather feel as if any greater problems that the club might have are in front of them rather than behind them, amongst which may be the transfer of land owned by the club into the name of a holding company called Yeovil Town Holdings Ltd.
Perhaps the most bitter of pills for Yeovil Town supporters to have to swallow this evening, however, might well be that such a defeat to non-league opposition is starting to become wearyingly familiar to a club more familiar with dishing out the occasional bloody nose to a bigger club. Yeovil had only progressed past the First Round of the competition once since 2006 prior to this year, and tonight’s defeat was the the fourth time that they have lost to non-league opposition in the FA Cup since joining the Football League nine years ago. For a club which, for many years, measured its place in the world by this competition, it seems difficult to believe that the Yeovil manager Terry Skiverton will escape this result without some degree of censure from the supporters, regardless of the club’s recent reasonable league form.
This, however, was Fleetwood Town’s night. This evening’s match was not the greatest surprise of this season’s FA Cup, regardless of the two division difference between the two sides, but it was nevertheless an extremely efficient performance to set up one of the more attractive-looking fixtures of the Third Round of the competition, and tomorrow night Chelmsford City of the Blue Square South travel to Macclesfield Town for their replay, with a home match against Bolton Wanderers, the bottom-placed club in the Premier League at stake. Now, if Chelmsford were to win those two matches, that would be a shock that would reverberate through the ages.
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