WYCOMBE Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth might have fronted rock bands in the past but it was Nigel Worthington that was singing his side’s praises as York City racked up a fourth successive win.
The Minstermen hit all the right notes against Ainsworth’s side during a first half that was rightly identified as the finest 45 minutes of his stewardship by Worthington.
At one point during that opening period, the visiting boss even tested his vocal chords to the full when he screamed “they are killing you” at beleaguered centre-backs Leon Johnson and Anthony Stewart.
A two-goal advantage, courtesy of Ryan Bowman’s second penalty in as many games and Josh Carson’s fifth goal of the season, was scant reward for the hosts’ dominance with an overwhelmed Wycombe chasing shadows for long periods.
Nevertheless, that lead was always likely to be sufficient for a side that have now conceded only one goal during almost 11 hours.
On-loan keeper Nick Pope’s shot-stopping skills were again only fleetingly tested against the Chairboys but his judgement coming off his line to claim a succession of crosses was immaculate for a 21-year-old who still has less than 20 appearances at Football League level to his name.
Teenage left-back Ben Davies, meanwhile, has played all but one of the Minstermen’s league contests this season and is impressing more and more by the game, making a vital intervention that proved the difference between his side going into the break 2-0 up rather than back on level terms, which would have been a travesty.
Davies somehow cleared his own crossbar as Sam Togwell prepared to tap in Nick Arnold’s left-wing cross to the far post.
From the subsequent corner, intercepted by John McCombe at the near post, City launched a typical counter-attack that would result in an overdue second goal during first-half stoppage time.
After Michael Coulson won a header in City’s half, Will Hayhurst picked out a characteristic charge down the right flank by Carson with a precise through ball.
The Northern Ireland international then switched the ball on to his left foot and tried his luck with a 25-yard drive that deceived Wanderers keeper Matt Ingram, diving down to his left, when it bounced quickly off the Bootham Crescent turf.
Davies’ intervention and Carson’s goal were only so vital, however, because the hosts had failed to apply finishing touches to a succession of excellent first-half crosses that flashed across the visitors’ goal and referee Steven Rushton had mysteriously disallowed an 11th-minute Keith Lowe header.
Dangerous deliveries from Lanre Oyebanjo, Coulson and Carson from the right flank were begging to be converted and, despite overwhelming their opponents with wave after wave of high-tempo attacks full of intelligent movement, the Minstermen did not capitalise fully on their superiority.
Setting the tone from the first whistle, Coulson had a goalbound attempt kicked away by harassed centre-back Stewart with just 30 seconds on the clock.
A Coulson back heel then found Carson in the 18-yard box and his quick feet drew an inadvisable lunge from striker Dean Morgan, giving Bowman the chance to convert a second penalty in as many games using exactly the same method – confidently sidefooting into the goalkeeper’s bottom lefthand corner.
Four minutes later, the goal celebration music was blaring out again when Lowe won the cleanest of headers from a Hayhurst corner but it proved premature with Rushton detecting an infringement by Coulson on Ingram and, within seconds, Morgan was shooting wide at the other end as a backslapping City struggled to regroup from the quickly taken free-kick.
The Minstermen were soon back on top, however, with Hayhurst curling another flag kick against the crossbar, only for McCombe to also be penalised as his follow-up header was cleared off the line.
Next came the move of the match, when a Lowe drag back and pass provided space for Adam Reed who, in turn, sent Coulson rampaging down the right. His cross somehow eluded Bowman at the far post.
Russell Penn went close on 27 minutes with an edge-of-the-box attempt that drifted narrowly wide and he also headed against the roof of the David Longhurst Stand after rising to meet Hayhurst’s corner.
After Arnold had hoofed over a rare chance at the other end, there followed the chain of events that saw Carson catch out Ingram.
City were never as commanding after the interval and were limited to a hat-trick of opportunities for the lively Hayhurst. On 53 minutes, he collected a clever reverse pass by Coulson but his low shot lacked the power to trouble Ingram.
Just past the hour, the winger seized on a Sam Wood mistake, following Lowe’s free-kick through the right channel, but a curling effort was kept out by Ingram.
A final shot was then booted away to safety by covering defender Stewart after substitute Wes Fletcher nutmegged Johnson during a rapid burst down the left.
At the other end, substitute Steven Craig lifted the visitors a little, using his first touch to force Pope into a good save low to his right.
After Arnold had curled a freekick into Pope’s midriff, Craig might have done better when, following a rare mix-up between Lowe and McCombe, he was presented with a clear run on the home goal.
But the forward could only shoot against Pope’s left-hand upright and prodded the rebound wide.
Pope made a routine save from Arnold before the Buckinghamshire visitors’ miserable afternoon was compounded when on-loan Chesterfield midfielder Togwell was sent off on his debut in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
City sub Lewis Montrose and Togwell were both fully committed to winning a 50-50 ball but, when the former got there a fraction earlier and the latter caught him, Rushton rather needlessly showed the Wycombe newcomer a second yellow card.
York City 2 (Bowman pen 7; Carson 45), Wycombe 0
Nick Pope 8
For one so young, gave a judgement masterclass in coming off his line.
Lanre Oyebanjo 8
An enterprising first half with some explosive, overlapping bursts.
Keith Lowe 8
Denied a goal, expressed himself on ball when opportunity arose.
John McCombe 8
Got distance on his defensive headers and stayed strong.
Ben Davies 8
Made possibly the best goal-saving intervention of the season.
Josh Carson 8
STAR MAN - buzzed around the pitch, deserved his goal.
Russell Penn 8
Brushed off challenges during a strong stint in the middle of the park.
Adam Reed 7
Competed and picked his passes before distribution went a little astray.
Will Hayhurst 8
Excellent runs off the ball that Wycombe found difficult to track.
Ryan Bowman 7
Proved himself from the penalty spot again, worked hard for team.
Michael Coulson 8
The visitors could not cope with his darting presence.
Subs: Wes Fletcher 8 – threatening (for Bowman, 67), Ryan Jarvis (for Coulson, 79), Lewis Montrose (for Reed, 87). Not used: David McGurk, Michael Ingham, Sander Puri, Tom Platt.
Matt Ingram, Marvin McCoy, Leon Johnson, Anthony Stewart, Sam Wood, Nick Arnold, Sam Togwell, Matt Bloomfield, Max Kretzschmar (Anthony Jeffrey, 72), Dean Morgan (Steven Craig, 54), Jo Kuffour (Reece Styche, 62). Subs not used: Charlie Horlock, Jon-Paul Pittman, Aaron Pierre, Jesse Kewley-Graham.
Star man: Arnold – posed only threat to City prior to Craig arrival.
Booked: Reed 68, Togwell 87.
Sent off: Togwell 90.
Referee: Steven Rushton (Staffordshire).
Rating: 5/10 – red card and disallowed goal both looked harsh.
Attendance: 3,455 (248 away fans).
Shots on target: City 7, Wycombe 4.
Shots off target: City 2, Wycombe 4.
Corners: City 5, Wycombe 7.
Fouls conceded: City 11, Wycombe 12.
Offsides: City 3, Wycombe 0.