Marcus Stewart has scored over 250 career goals, but none as important as this header for Yeovil in the league one playoff semi-final...
Back in the day Yeovil Town fans would only get the chance to see the likes of Nottingham Forest on the TV. They had won the European Cup twice and were managed by the great Brian Clough, they were as far removed from the Somerset non-league club as you could get. Yet this changed rapidly in the new millennium, the Glovers rapid rise up the divisions coincided with the decline of a once great club. So it was that Nottingham Forest played Yeovil Town in a fixture in League 1 in October 2005.
The mighty Forest failed to achieve their expected promotion that season and the two clubs faced each other again in the 2006-07 season. That season was a great one for Yeovil Town fans as Russell Slade somehow led us to the League 1 play-offs. Our opponents in the semi-final were our manager’s hometown side, Nottingham Forest, who had once again stumbled on missing out on automatic promotion under the somewhat underwhelming leadership of Colin Calderwood.
Whilst the table didn’t lie, after a long hard season we deserved our place in the play-offs, yet few thought we would prevail. This looked even more unlikely as we lost the 1st leg 2-0 at home. The consensus was we were out, yet football fans are a loyal/dedicated/misguided/stupid bunch and thus myself and a few Capital Glovers travelled up to the City Ground clutching at the tiniest of straws that we might be able to turn it around. Even the stalls outside the ground before the match considered it game over, with Forest at Wembley 2007 flags and scarves already on sale.
Nothing beats a proper football ground packed to the rafters under the floodlights and the City Ground looked and sounded beautiful as the game kicked off. It soon transpired that we were more than up for it, attacking at Forest from the off and when Aaron Davies opened the scoring in the 22nd minute we began to think maybe, just maybe. We had a few more chances and went in at half time on top and 1-0 up. There’s nothing like 15 minutes of chat and a couple of downed pints with your fellow fans to get you slightly carried away. And get carried away we did as Scott Dobie equalised for Forest in the 47th minute and we were right back where we started. The game drifted to what we thought was its inevitable conclusion and we were proud that the guys had given us their all. Then, out of nowhere with eight minutes to go a scuffed shot from Kalala rattled the bar only for the rebound to hit Forest defender Alan Wright on the back and roll into the net. 2-1 and game on but time was running out.
As a policeman walked towards me I suddenly thought ‘fuck I’m getting kicked out here, I’m going to miss it.’ The policeman leaned into my ear and said ’they (stewards) want you out but I’m a Derby fan and I enjoyed that nearly as much as you so I’ve had a word but don’t do it again!
Then in the 87th minute something happened that will remain with me until my dying days. Local lad Andy Lindegaard had the ball on the right wing and hit an absolutely a delicious ball into the box. We were on the front row of the visiting section behind the goal and just yards away. Almost in slow motion we could see the ball with unnerving accuracy head towards the forehead of Marcus Stewart. Like the seasoned goalscorer he was he stuck his nut on it good and proper and the ball smashed the back of the net. I doubt I will ever again feel the rush of euphoria as I did during the following seconds. I jumped so high in the air my momentum took me up and over onto the mesh netting in the rows in front of us – you know the netting that’s designed for us mere supporters to keep away from the action. As Stewie and the Yeovil players rushed towards us I suddenly found myself in no-man’s land between the players and my mates. Needless to say stewards came rushing across to ensure I didn’t go any further.
One beckoned to me ‘get the fuck back’ but try as I might, I could hardly move, I was genuinely delirious, struggling to even stand up. My mates themselves going absolutely bat shit tried to pull me back to my seat but it was no use. Fuck it I was stuck and just going to celebrate like fuck. A couple of stewards got angrier and edged closer and as the initial shock died down I realised the police were heading my way. Eventually I found my legs and got back to my seat and immediately held my hands up apologetically but what could I do I’d just seen the best goal of my life – from being dead and buried we were back in with a chance to go to Wembley. We still had extra-time though but as a policeman walked towards me I suddenly thought ‘fuck I’m getting kicked out here, I’m going to miss it.’ The policeman leaned into my ear and said ’they (stewards) want you out but I’m a Derby fan and I enjoyed that nearly as much as you so I’ve had a word but don’t do it again!’ That 30 seconds was the highest high I’ve ever experienced and made up for every shit game, every shit ground, and every shit moment I’d previously witnessed as a Yeovil fan.
From that Stewart goal onwards, I was on cloud nine, fuck it even cloud 10,11,12 etc and so much more so when it became clear that Stewart’s goal was a sucker punch to the Forest players and the supporters who were in as much shock as the Yeovil fans. The momentum was well and truly with us and we would go on to score twice in extra time to run out 5-2 winners. A little treasured fact for Yeovil supporters is that the last 2 teams to have scored five or more at the City Ground were Manchester United and Bayern Munich. My team Yeovil Town had just stuffed Nottingham Forest on their own turf and we were now heading to Wembley. I realised I would never ever see a goal of that importance like that ever again. Maybe if we’d have managed one in the final against a certain Blackpool (whatever happened to them?) a week later then that would have beaten it but the euphoria of the City Ground was matched by the sheer disappointment of a 2-0 defeat. The next day and after a shitload of drowning the sorrows I realised how lucky I was to be one of the 1,095 to make that trip.
A couple of years later I got the supplier of the cross for the goal, Andy Lindergaard to sign the ticket stub at a golf day. He seemed amazed that I’d even kept it and asked him, and then even more amazed when I said it was the best moment of my life. I’ve got the video of the goal on my iPhone, and it’s still guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up despite hundreds of views. The accompanying commentary makes you realise as well what a moment it must’ve been for the Yeovil fans watching it on the TV. I’ve not yet tracked Stewart down to add his signature to the stub but I’m sure one day I will and even though he’s scored a fair few goals in his time I hope he’ll appreciate why many Yeovil fans like myself see it as the greatest goal we ever saw.
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