Exeter City will travel to west country rivals Yeovil town tomorrow in a festive face-off, hoping to consolidate their place in the automatic promotion places before Christmas.
Man behind the Mask Dan Gottschalk takes a detailed look at the Grecians opponents in the battle of two south west titans in League Two.
Yeovil founded in 1895 and for a number of years shared their playing pitch with the local rugby club. It would be a number of years before Yeovil would come to be known as Yeovil Town FC, having experimented at the start of the 20th century with Yeovil Casuals and Yeovil and Petters United before eventually settling on Yeovil Town at the start of the 1946/47 season.
Known as ‘the Glovers’ due to the glove making industry in the town, Yeovil gained national attention in the 1948/49 season as a non-league side in the FA Cup, being dubbed ‘giant killers’ as they knocked Sunderland out of the competition in the Fourth Round in front of a record home crowd of 17,000. In Round Five, the Glovers were not as successful, losing 8-0 away to Manchester United, although their achievements were impressive nonetheless.
From 1955 to 1973, Yeovil found success in non-league football, winning the Southern Football League three times and being runners-up twice. This however was not enough for them to reach the Football League. Despite a number of applications over this period, they were consistently denied entry, despite falling short by just a few votes in 1976.
In 1979, Yeovil were founder members of the Conference, a new league to sit just below the Football League in the league pyramid. The club went through a series of relegations and promotions from and to the conference until in 2001, Gary Johnson was appointed manager.
In his first full season in charge of the Glovers, Johnson guided Yeovil to their first major trophy, the FA Trophy, beating Stevenage in the final. The following season would see the Somerset club find success yet again when they won the Conference to reach the Football League for the first time in their 108 year history.
Life for Yeovil in the Football League started well, beating Rochdale 3-1 on the opening day of the season and eventually finishing League Two in 8th position, narrowly missing out on the play-offs. The season would also be remembered for the visit of Liverpool in the Third Round of the FA Cup, the Glovers bowing out with Liverpool wining 2-0 at Huish Park. Yeovil would not have to wait long to secure promotion to League One however, the side winning League Two the following season (2004/05).
In their very first season in League One, Yeovil looked like doing the impossible and securing back-to-back promotions to the Championship, reaching the League One play off final in 2007. This wasn’t to be their year however, as serial play-off winners Blackpool dispatched them 2-0 to make it to England’s second tier instead.
Having left to manage Bristol City in 2005, Gary Johnson returned to manage Yeovil in 2012 and his impact was soon noticeable with the side making their best ever start to a League One season in 2012/13. Yeovil would go on to finish 4th that season to make the play-offs and after beating Sheffield United in the semi-finals, met and beat Brentford 2-1 at Wembley to make it to the Championship.
Yeovil struggled with life in the Championship however, finishing bottom of the table in their first season and things got even more difficult for the Glovers as they suffered back-to-back relegations to League Two, where they remain today, after failing to readjust to life back in League One.
Season in Focus:
Last season was just Yeovil’s second in League Two since being relegated from League One. Whilst Darren Way’s side have been able to prevent further slide down the football league pyramid, Yeovil have perhaps not made the impact on League Two that they would have hoped to make having only recently played in the second tier of English football. Finishing 20th in the league last season, Yeovil will be hoping to consolidate their league position year, providing some stability for the club to build on.
Early on this season, it looked as though Yeovil were going to be able to make a winning start to their campaign, opening the scoring against Luton in the seventh minutes and for a brief spell, sitting behind then league leaders Exeter City. This was short lived however as the Glovers fell to the attacking strength of Luton and eventually lost the game 8-2.
Fortunes have improved slightly from the opening day for Yeovil however, the side bouncing back with some impressive results such as a wins against high flyers Accrington Stanley and Coventry and they also managed to top their group in the Checkatrade Trophy, beating the Grecians 3-1 at SJP in the process.
Currently, the Glovers sit in 21st, just a point above the relegation zone and having not won any of their last six, the last victory coming in late October at home to Stevenage. No doubt however, this game will be a stern test for Exeter in a tasty West Country match-up as Yeovil try to make Christmas come early at Huish Park by taking all three points.
Ones to Watch:
Despite their league position, Yeovil are a side who like to score goals. So far this season, three of their players have scored over seven goals each, we take a look at each of them here.
Otis Khan is Yeovil’s top scorer this season with eight goals and three assists to his name. At the spritely age of just 22, Khan started his career by coming through the ranks at Manchester United before moving the Sheffield United in 2012. Since then, Khan has had a number of loan moves before finding his feet at Yeovil, arriving on a short term deal in 2016. He soon impressed however and has since made over 50 appearances for the Glovers.
Francois Zoko is a footballer with plenty of experience in the lower leagues of English football. After coming through the youth system at Nancy in France, Zoko first arrived on the English scene in 2010, earning a professional contract with Carlisle after impressing on trial. Known as a hard worker amongst fans, Zoko has played for a number of sides in the Football League, spending time at Notts County, Stevenage, Blackpool and Bradford before joining Yeovil in 2015. Last season, Zoko finished as Yeovil’s top scorer and looks in fine form so far this season too, finding the net eight times already this season.
Oluefela Olomola is a 20 year old striker on loan from Southampton. Originally an Arsenal youth graduate, Olomola joined the Saints in 2014 and made his professional debut in the EFL Cup against Sunderland in 2016, replacing Jay Rodriguez in a 1-0 win. He joined Yeovil on a loan deal at the start of this season and is already raising eyebrows, scoring seven times for the Glovers already this season.
Played for Both:
Exeter and Yeovil may be west country rivals but there are a number of players who have represented both clubs, we profile a few of the most notable here although honourable mentions also go out to Marcus Stewart, Arron Davies, Joel Grant, Jamie McAllister and Danny Seaborne amongst many others.
Stanno is an Exeter City and a Yeovil Town legend. Starting his career with the Glovers, he became a fan favourite and scored the goal that sealed the FA Trophy win for Yeovil in 2002. Before leaving the Somerset side in 2004, Adam had made 55 appearances for Yeovil, scoring 14 goals along the way and also helping the side reach the Football League for the first time in their 108 year history. Impressively, Stanno would go to replicate this feat with all three clubs he represented.
In 2006, Stanno joined Exeter City from Hereford United and soon established himself as a hugely popular figure amongst players and fans alike. Adam would experience the best years of his career at Exeter City, helping the Grecians achieve back-to-back promotions from the Conference to League One, making 142 appearances and scoring 37 goals in red and white.
Stanno sadly passed away in August 2010 from cancer, with touching tributes being made by both Yeovil and Exeter clubs and fans. In recognition of his life, the Adam Stansfield Foundation was established to provide sporting opportunities for those who are less able and to raise aareness of colorectal cancer.
Starting his career at Devon rivals Plymouth, Reuben moved to Yeovil for a two year spell in 2012, Yeovil’s most successful period in its history. Returning to Home Park on loan throughout the 2013/14 season and later on a permanent deal, Reuben stablished himself as a goal hungry striker for Plymouth until he left the club in the summer of 2016, eventually joining Exeter City later in the year and quickly finding the back of the net once again, helping the Grecians book their spot at Wembley in the play-off final.
Coming through the ranks at Birmingham, the 6ft4 shot stopper from Poland had a string of unsuccessful loan spells before joining Burton Albion on loan in 2009. Building a reputation for a safe pair of hands in League Two, Artur agreed to join then League One side Exeter City the following summer, eventually making 127 appearances for the Grecians over four years before joining Yeovil in 2014 where he has since played for the Glovers 114 times.
The longest serving manager in the EFL wasn’t always confined to the dugouts. After coming through the youth system at Southampton, Tis joined Bristol City on a permanent deal in 1997 and after struggling to make an impact, joined Exeter City on a three month loan.
At the end of the 1997/98 season, Tis left England to play for FinnPa in Finland and Panionios in Greece before returning to the south west in 1999 to spend a year playing for Yeovil Town.
Anyone would think that after his time at Yeovil, Tis’ playing days were over. They would be mistaken. In 2011, now as manager of the Grecians, Tis came on as a substitute in a 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the season to make his first playing appearance in 11 years.
Last Time Out:
The last time Exeter faced Yeovil at Huish Park was on Boxing Day 2016, the Grecians securing a point away from home in a 0-0 stalemate.
Perhaps more memorable was the game between the two sides at St James Park last season, in March earlier this year. Going in at 0-0 after the first half, Yeovil scored three goals in a 16 minute spell midway through the second half to seemingly steal all three points from the Grecians.
The game however was not yet over in what would be remembered as one of Exeter’s finest moments and a legendary game in a season where the Grecians would go to Wembley as play-off finalists.
With 88 minutes on the clock, David Wheeler struck a volley in off the post to grab what seemed at the time a consolation goal. However when five minutes of added time were awarded, the tension inside the stadium grew and Troy Brown managed to convert a header from a corner in the 91st minute to give City a fighting chance of taking something away from the game.
With Yeovil on the ropes, City threw everything at the Glovers and when Wheeler found Reuben Reid in front of goal, the striker had no problem finding the back of the net to jubilant scenes inside SJP.