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Growing problem threatens to cloud club's top display

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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AN afternoon that ranks as Yeovil Town's finest to date in the Sky Bet Championship was very nearly clouded by an issue that has exploded with increasing regularity this season.

As Glovers' fans filed out of Vicarage Road and back to the South West on Saturday, online discussion was not just about a truly tremendous afternoon in the club's history but also the growth of a culture that, to put it succinctly, is illegal.

With smiles still spread strong on the faces of Yeovil fans, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on our team's incredible defensive resolve, the ability to nullify one of the strongest teams in the division and an attacking display more deadly than we've witnessed so far from Gary Johnson's men.

Instead I find myself compelled to write about supporter behaviour and, more specifically, the growing use of smoke bombs by an otherwise impeccably conducted travelling faithful.

Before we had even reached Watford, those of us scanning Twitter could see that a small number – the slenderest of minorities – had announced their arrival at London Waterloo railway station by attempting to fill the main concourse with smoke.

By 5pm police officers tasked with controlling Hornets' games were reporting Glovers' fans had released another smoke bomb during the game, while three of the 945 away fans – the vast majority who were there to support their team and enjoy the match – had been ejected by stewards.

Some tweets suggested heavy-handed tactics from the Watford stewards and a significant number of others debated the merits of deploying pyrotechnics – an act that breaks the law of the land and can lead to a ban from all grounds for the perpetrator, if found guilty.

For a minute you could almost forget just what had happened on the pitch and the excellence loyal support had been rewarded with.

My purpose is not to divide fans, nor be critical of a committed and supportive community.

Nor do I wish to adopt a glass-half-empty ethos and take the shine off a brilliant day where the Glovers yet again proved they've got what it takes to prevail in the second tier.

However, too often we are now seeing social networks buzzing with discussion over a topic that could lead to a member of Yeovil's proverbial 12th man being prevented from enjoying this fantastic journey we are on.

The use of flares and smoke bombs is commonplace in many European leagues and, could be argued, boosts atmosphere. But, as it stands, our leagues do not operate in the same environment and the laws are there for a reason.

As well as the obvious potential dent to the club's reputation acts such as letting off smoke bombs in one of the country's busiest stations could deal, there are other health implications to consider.

One tweet from a worried mother commented that her ten-year-old asthmatic daughter was among a group of Junior Glovers at Vicarage Road. Okay, some scientific evidence would suggest the smoke from the devices in question is harmless but breathing in such fumes can never surely be a good thing.

During numerous conversations with Yeovil Town stadium manager James Hillier he has stressed how smoke contained under a stand roof can cause confusion.

It will only take one injury, one emergency provoked by panic or one fan to be banned for this smoke bomb issue to spiral out of control and not only for the club's reputation to be tarnished but for real harm to have been inflicted.

Despite the sour taste left by the bombs, those that made the trip to Watford witnessed a genuine treat with the spirit required to survive dripping from the players' pores.

Nobody genuinely expected anything from the encounter with Gianfranco Zola's ambitious outfit, but the resolve and passion on offer was genuinely remarkable.

Handing debuts to all three new loanees was bold, but a decision that was justified by Ishmael Miller's headed goal and John Lundstram's assist in Joe Edwards' third.

Miller offered a physical presence the Glovers had previously lacked and his partnership with Adam Morgan will only grow in strength with more game time.

The Glovers' defence rightly earned the afternoon's plaudits, playing with the hearts of lions to thwart Watford, time after time throwing bodies on the line to protect the solid Chris Dunn.

Victory wasn't enough to take Yeovil out of the drop zone, nor reduce the gap to safety to less than five points. But with Charlton Athletic in town on Saturday confidence has been boosted as, having taken the sting from the Hornets' tail, Yeovil aim to reel in the Addicks.

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