by Ben Barrett
The story you are about to read is not one out of a story book; it was not plucked from a comic or magazine nor is it a case of a wild imagination.
It really happened.
Allow me to set the scene, a side from deepest, darkest Somerset were taking on one of the nation’s footballing legacies in a game which was the biggest in one club’s history and was taking place about two and half leagues two low for the other.
The 2007 Coca-Cola League One Play-Off Semi Final between Nottingham Forest and Yeovil Town was a true David vs Goliath tie; it pitted the former Champions of Europe against the former holders of the FA Trophy.
The two league games between the sides had ended 1-0 to Forest, but both had a cup tie feeling about them – the Glovers trying to hold out for as long as possible in the hope they could snatch a breakaway goal or walk away with a battling point.
Yeovil were having the season of their lives. Despite only entering the Football League in 2003, they had successfully negotiated their way through League Two and were revelling in a fifth place finish in League One, their highest ever.
But a play-off campaign against Forest would probably be a step too far for little ol’ Yeovil. Or at least it should have been.
The first leg at Huish Park had gone the way of the big boys, a 2-0 win for Forest. A couple of penalties separated the sides; Yeovil played the better football in truth, but all the chances in the world count for nothing unless they ripple the net.
Going to the City Ground and turning over a 2-0 deficit in front of an expectant Forest crowd, who would be out in force to see their side begin their climb back up the leagues, would be tough if not impossible.
If we are honest, Yeovil were going to make up the numbers. In three games we were yet to even score against Colin Calderwood’s men. If we could play our hearts out and give everything then defeat would be accepted with good grace, with our best wishes for those in the Forest end at Wembley.
The morning of the game was odd. I’m yet to feel anything even close to the nerves I experienced that day. 1095 fans were on the way to Nottingham neither in hope nor expectation – we were off to enjoy our finest hour and say thanks to the lads for an incredible season. No-one could have written what would happen on the side of the River Trent that evening.
“What are you doing here?”
One Forest fan approached a friend of mine and asked “What are you lot doing here?” whoever he is, wherever he may be now – I hope he remembers asking that question.
The early exchanges were scrappy and yet Yeovil were probably the side likely to cause more danger. Nothing more than half chances came and went for both sides until Arron Davies picked up the ball just inside the Forest half.
He ran, he kept running, he was still running, then Bang!
2-1… hang on a minute, that wasn’t in the script.
An eerie silence fell over Nottingham, a realisation that Yeovil had not finished yet.
Forest upped their game, probably woken up by the early goal.
The rest of the half was a bit of a blur – most of it played in midfield, neither side wanting to make the mistake that would probably end their Wembley dreams.
The half time message had to be a case of “same again lads.” We in the away end would have happily taken extra time and penalties.
No sooner had we uttered the words “maybe, just maybe” Forest hit back. Scott Dobie’s nodded goal, his first league goal in over a year and a half, put us back to square one.
It could have been the end, we could have gone back into our shell and quietly disappeared like we were supposed to, but there was a new found hunger. We truly believed we were still in the game.
The clocked continued to tick, an hour passed, then 70 minutes, then 80. It was probably now too late, belief had turned to hope which in turn became acceptance.
Yeovil playmaker Chris Cohen had gone off with a groin injury and replaced by Jean Paul Kalala. Kalala was good, but he wasn’t exactly attack-minded.
But in a night of crazy goings on, seeing JP ping an effort from 25 yards was a shock. Not quite as much of a shock as seeing the shot rebound off the post, onto the face of Alan Wright and trickle over the line.
The ball travelled maybe six yards from Wright’s noggin to the goal yet those six yards took a good month to elapse in real time.
Forest were wobbling, Yeovil were flying, we wouldn’t, we couldn’t …
Only gone and done it
We were on the attack, hunting for that one last hurrah, when Andy Lindegaard picked up a loose ball on the wide right and delivered an inch perfect cross, every Yeovil fan will have an image of Marcus Stewart rising highest to plant a header home etched on their memory forever.
To paraphrase the Sky Sports commentator that night, we had only gone and done it.
Euphoria erupted in the away end. I’ve never shouted so loudly, I’ve never hugged so many random people, from that moment there was only one winner.
Extra time beckoned, things went from bad to worse for Forest, Wes Morgan laid a pass back around 20 yards short and Lee Morris rounded Paul Smith in the Forest goal. We were ahead in the tie.
The emotions I had experienced during a couple hours had ensured I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore. I practically missed the Nottingham Forest equaliser – which could have changed things drastically.
Forest’s players were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Strikers with defenders, Alan Wright was moving on one leg (rounding off a pretty awful day when you consider the own goal and the fact he had been released by his parent club Sheffield Utd too) and now David Prutton had accumulated two yellow cards. This time Graham Poll had deemed that enough to send him off.
It was the home side hanging on for penalties. Yeovil were on the crest of a wave.
Then it happened, Arron Davies finished everything off, just as he had started it.
A run, a jinx and shot put the final nail into the coffin.
2-0 down, 5-4 up, Arron Davies wrapped it up. With a knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone, we’re off to Wembley, you’re off home!
I was singing yet it was silent, I was happy yet there were tears, I was dancing yet couldn’t move a muscle.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The next few hours were a party. We stayed in the away end until the stewards had to go home, we sang in the car park and in the services on the way home.
I didn’t sleep that night. How could I? I had to be up early and buy my tickets to Wembley.
The greatest night we have had? Probably. The greatest night we might ever have? Possibly.
We went to Wembley and were played off the park by Blackpool – they went on to do alright for themselves – while Forest did get promoted 12 months later even if they had to buy Cohen and Davies from us to do it.
To this day, when people discover I am a Yeovil fan, they say “didn’t you have John Terry’s brother? … and didn’t you win that game against Forest a few years back?”
We will always have ‘that’ night. For one night only, they went home to the FA Trophy while we felt like European Champions.
Colin Calderwood, Stuart Pearce, Brian Clough, your boys took one hell of a beating.
Your boys took one hell of a beating… is a new series on Just Football looking at famous thrashings past, as told by fans who remember them most vividly. To read more and get involved with a piece of your own, click here.
Ben Barrett is a new contributor to Just Football and proud Yeovil Town fan. Find him at Barrett Sports Writing.