6th September 2022

Young Glovers battle to an entertaining 3-3 draw in home opener against Cirencester Town 

Under the guidance of Team Manager, Matt Percival, Yeovil Town’s U18 got the season underway with their opening South West Counties Youth League game against Cirencester Town U18s at Alvington. 

Several returning second-year players have been joined by an exciting new crop of youngsters keen to make their mark as part of the Elite Player Development Programme (EPDP), a joint venture between Yeovil Town FC and Yeovil College. 

The Young Glovers set up with a 3-5-2 formation, mirroring the set-up within the first team, and afforded league debuts to Harrison Foster, Alex Stevens and Ethan O’Sullivan. 

The game began in cagey fashion, with both teams sizing up the opposition during the opening exchanges. The home side nearly struck first when a knockdown from Stevens, following a corner, fell invitingly for Max Dyer who saw his close range shot expertly blocked by the keeper. Cirencester responded with a shot from distance firing just over, but Yeovil began to see an upturn in possession and threatened further through half chances from Foster and Stevens. 

Somewhat against the run of play, Cirencester scored the opener in the 20th minute, with a header direct from a corner, 0-1.

Yeovil set about chasing an equaliser as the half wore on and utilised the pace and energy of wing-backs Max Dyer and Mason Hunter, the latter setting up a chance for striker Charlie Bateson who saw his close range shot well blocked. Centre-back Jacob Shore couldn’t quite direct a back post opportunity on target and substitute Josh Sutton narrowly missed a cross as midfielders Sam Hodges and skipper Jake Graziano sought to take control in the central area. As the half came to a close the visitors would have been happy with a compact performance from the backline keeping the hosts at bay. 

The Young Glovers were quick off the blocks to start the second half and Stevens and Bateson both went close before the mercurial Benjani Jr grabbed an equaliser on 50 minutes when he muscled past the defender before clipping a shot past the onrushing keeper, 1-1. 

The good early spell was quickly undone when the ball broke down the Cirencester left on 55 minutes and home keeper Rob Hollard had a rush of blood but failed to intercept the ball on the edge of his box. The advancing striker was able to whip the ball across for an easy tap-in to make it 1-2. 

The home side once again were keen to make amends and a great move through the middle involving Graziano released Dyer who slammed the ball home, only to see his effort harshly ruled out for offside. However, Yeovil were soon able to level the score when Bateson slotted a well-placed finish into the bottom corner to make it 2-2 on 70 minutes. 

The Young Glovers continued to pile on the pressure and had further chances through Hunter and Bateson before the visitors, always a threat on the counter, got their third when a long ball up the middle was allowed to bounce and was clinically despatched to make it 2-3 with less than 10 minutes left. 

Percival sent on debutants Josh Haskett and Nathan Hart in search of an equaliser, but were indebted to, first, a fine block from Hollard and then goal-saving tackle from Dyer as they chased the game. With five minutes to go Yeovil got their third when a hooked shot from Graziano came back off the bar and Hart was on hand to head the ball home, 3-3. A frantic finale ensued with Benjani seeing his shot saved before Foster had a goal-bound effort dramatically cleared off the line by a defender as the final whistle sounded. 

Credit the team for three times coming back from a goal down, but they’ll be disappointed with the goals conceded. 

YTFC: Hollard, 2 – Hunter, 3 – Dyer, 5 – Shore, 6 – Foster, 7 – Graziano ©, 8 – Hodges, 9 – Bateson, 10 – Stevens, 11 – Benjani Jr and 14 – O’Sullivan Subs: 12 – Witcombe, 15 – Bareham, 16 – Sutton, 17 – Haskett and 18 – Hart. 

After the game a philosophical Percival gave his thoughts: 

‘As with some of the pre-season games, we were a little slow starting and it’s frustrating to give away a couple of sloppy goals out of possession. We’re a young group and there was perhaps a bit of naivety at times but we’ll regroup ahead of the next game. We’re pleased with how this new group are gelling with the second years and it’s great to see some debuts today from a couple of lads who’ve come up through the JPL (Junior Premier League) programme.’ 

Focussing on the likes of Ollie Haste, a key part of last year’s U18s side, who has gone on to get first team experience with the club and is currently impressing whilst out on loan at Truro City FC, Percival has been encouraged by the hunger and attitude shown by this current crop: 

‘We’ve got some good young players in the squad who want to succeed and have shown a real aspiration to take any opportunities given and to aim to train and work with the first team’. 

Yeovil continue their league campaign with a trip to Salisbury U18s on Saturday 10th September.

By Matt Partridge.