“They seem to know what they’re doing more than usual,” said my dad, barely three minutes into the game.
My dad’s last game was the 2-1 home defeat to Wycombe – as was mine – and the contrast was clear from kick-off. Who knew that 4-4-2 could work? We looked organised, the players played with confidence, and we were as creative and incisive as I’ve seen us all season.
Then we won a penalty, which Sam Jones tucked away with the only kind of aplomb you know, and Chris Clements soon doubled our lead with an effort that deserved to find the net based solely on the neat bit of teeing up he did for himself immediately before the strike.
Town, being Town, let the Glovers back in it way too early in the second half. Under Bignot we’d have turned to the person sat next to us and pulled a sort of constipated face in anticipation of a nervy last 40 minutes, in which we’d have scored a last-minute own goal, gave away a silly penalty or allowed the referee to take all our playing abilities out of the equation and intervened with an uncontrollably bad decision to make the very angry bloke at the back of the main stand completely lose his shit and put his fist through the corrugated steel behind him.
But this was a team that had already showed enough to suggest that we wouldn’t crumble.
Despite Scott Vernon either being unavailable or overlooked in the game against Cambridge, I always felt there would be a place for him in Slade’s team. The goal today helped, of course – even if it came off his back, a yard out, without him even knowing.
Vernon’s the experienced front man, with the strength and intelligence to make our manager weak at the knees. He’s our new Lump, and every Slade team needs a Lump. He combined really well with Sam Jones, and they worked tirelessly as a front pair.
“Jamey’s goal was Reddy-esque,” mumbled Dale from the back of the room in the post-match press conference. It was. Osborne ran onto a clearance from a Yeovil free kick and suddenly found himself in the clear before he’d even broken out of his own half. At the crucial moment, just outside the area, he stepped across and in front of the only Glover chasing him back before taking the ball on and caressing it into the far corner as if he’d been doing it all his career.
No more sweating for us.
Well, you say that, but I wasn’t completely convinced we’d see things out comfortably after Yeovil smashed in a second because my mate Pete said before the game that with the pressure off for both sides it’d would either be a tepid affair or end 4-4. For a moment that second prediction of his was about to be played out.
But despite scoring two goals, the visitors never really looked like they’d get anything from the game. In fact the two goals flattered them, while five or six wouldn’t have flattered us.
There was just enough time left for me to praise the referee – seconds before he ignored what I felt was a pretty nailed-on penalty when Vose was brought down in the area. I’d have liked to have seen us hit five to wipe out the memory of us conceding that many at Crewe in February.
So even when we play with two central midfielders as wingers in a 4-4-2 we’re good enough to see off average teams in League 2. Osborne showed craft and skill and was understandably named man of the match for his goal, assist and general marauding down the left, while forgotten man James Berrett has played himself back into contention for next season.
I haven’t mentioned Disley because that’s exactly what he does. He glided through the game, bringing calmness in the centre and setting the stage for others to perform. It was vintage Dis.
There was some good football played in the final third, too. And while we weren’t afraid to lump it from the back, the punts forward just had a lower trajectory and more of a purpose. They seemed to find Vernon and Jones more easily, and it would often stick. I dunno, it was almost like we had a plan or something.
It was a thoroughly dominant performance – although I’m not sure how much Yeovil, wearing a strip inspired by what you’d typically find in a doorway down a deserted back alley in Manchester at 3am on Sunday morning, contributed to our success because they were pretty awful considering they technically had something to play for – as did we, of course.
Even now, the play-offs aren’t mathematically out of the question with two games to play.