Match report: Oxford United 0, York City 1
YORK City jumped back into a Sky Bet League Two play-off place after equalling the club’s longest undefeated run in 30 years.
A 1-0 win at Oxford, courtesy of Michael Coulson’s second penalty in as many matches, lifted the visitors back into the top seven at the expense of their hosts.
It also meant no side since City’s history-making 1984 team have gone longer without being beaten than Nigel Worthington’s players.
Only one – that inherited from Billy McEwan by Colin Walker in 2007/08 – can match the present sequence of 14 games without a loss although the likes of Droylsden, Weymouth and Farsley Celtic were among the Minstermen’s opponents back then.
Fast-forward six years and the likes of Sheffield United, Bristol City and Bradford could still lie in wait for Worthington’s class of 2013/14 next term.
The current players deserve great credit for sustaining their top-seven push in the absence of attacking talismen Wes Fletcher and Josh Carson.
Without the pair, the visitors have only two Coulson spot kicks to show for their efforts during the last four matches.
Ex-Grimsby and Barnsley attacker Coulson, meanwhile, went into yesterday’s Good Friday clash as the leading marksman in City’s starting line-up with five goals.
Furthermore, only three of his team-mates had netted for the club this term – winger Ryan Brobbel (three goals), centre-back John Mc- Combe (three) and Will Hayhurst (one with the aid of a deflection).
The Minstermen have also now averaged less than a goal a game during their last nine fixtures, although the likes of play-off rivals Oxford (five), Burton (seven) and Plymouth (seven) have, revealingly, netted fewer times over the corresponding period.
In such a tightly-contested fight, therefore, a City side that has not conceded in open play for 14 matches and only shipped twice from a corner and once from a free kick during that time are truly credible contenders.
At the Kassam Stadium, Dave Kitson’s fifth-minute, sidefooted effort from the edge of the penalty box proved Oxford’s solitary shot on target as the visitors produced a typically combative and resolute display on their travels, where 19 points have now been collected from a possible 21.
Prior to the twin introductions of Alfie Potter and David Connolly in the second half, Oxford did not help themselves in that respect either with lone central striker James Constable left too isolated for long periods.
Former Premier League target man Kitson was puzzlingly employed with his back often 60 yards from the City goal, picking up the ball in pockets of space that rarely troubled the visitors.
Following ex-Reading forward Kitson’s early effort, touched over by Nick Pope, Ben Davies’ 30- yard half-volley sailed over on 20 minutes during a first half of little incident.
Home full-back David Hunt also hoofed the ball into the car park from distance and Coulson chipped over from 15 yards before Constable headed off target from a cross by Callum O’Dowda, who went on to drive wide from the edge of the box.
City started the second half, however, with purpose and a right-wing raid by Ryan Brobbel led to an early corner.
Just six days after a mishit flag kick had secured a stoppage-time point for Accrington at Bootham Crescent, Hayhurst’s delivery also stabbed a finger of fun at the hours of training ground work that goes into set-piece situations.
His scuffed cross found Russell Penn at the near post and, when the City skipper attempted to hook the ball over his head, Kitson raised his hands and linesman Jake Hillier persuaded previously unconvinced referee Oliver Langford that a penalty should be awarded.
Belying a spot-kick history that had only seen him take his first, outside of shoot-outs, less than a week before, Coulson then fired firmly with confidence to home keeper Ryan Clarke’s right on 47 minutes.
Moments later, an off-balance Constable lifted over Pope’s crossbar from eight yards and Ryan Williams dragged wastefully wide after bursting through the right channel when Davies’ clearance cannoned off Adam Reed’s back.
A sliding Pope was also alert to nick the ball off Nicky Wroe’s toes after Kitson’s through ball.
City responded with Calvin Andrew calling Clarke into an elaborate flying save from 30 yards and Hayhurst’s inswinging corner was headed off the line by Hunt.
At the other end, Connolly hooked a chance over his head and wide after Pope failed to collect Hunt’s long throw and Constable had the ball in the net but was blown up for handball.
Coulson went on to fire at Clarke from 25 yards before home centreback Michael Raynes had two late chances after being thrown upfield.
First, he spooned an excellent opportunity over after being picked out expertly by Connolly eight yards from goal. He then headed narrowly wide after a Potter cross as the Minstermen held on for three crucial points.
Oxfod United 0, York City 1 (Coulson pen 47)
Nick Pope: made a few uncharacteristic misjudgements but showed character to make some crucial claims and punches. 7
Lanre Oyebanjo: uncertain start both defensively and in possession before recovering to lock down his side. 7
Keith Lowe: given a few problems by Constable but stayed undeterred and made vital blocks late on. 7
John McCombe: STAR MAN – made right decisions on the floor and in the air, stood tall, never looked in trouble. 8
Ben Davies: comfortably had the measure of rightwinger Williams and defended with determination. 8
Ryan Brobbel: provided his team with a real outlet in the second half and carried the attack to Oxford. 7
Russell Penn: got important toes on the ball when needed and rarely gave it away as he drove the side on. 8
Adam Reed: made some key challenges as he continues to impress with his willingness to do the dirty work in midfield. 8
Will Hayhurst: always a threat from his dead-ball deliveries even if corner that led to penalty was a mis-hit. 7
Calvin Andrew: ran himself into the ground for the cause in the second half, gave defenders an uneasy time. 7
Michael Coulson: despatched his penalty with real decisiveness and confidence. 8
Subs: Sander Puri (for Hayhurst, 84), Lewis Montrose (for Reed, 88), Ryan Bowman (for Andrew, 90). Not used: Michael Ingham, Ryan Jarvis, Tom Allan.
Ryan Clarke, David Hunt, Jake Wright, Michael Raynes, Tom Newey, Ryan Williams (Alfie Potter, 69), Nicky Wroe, Josh Ruffels, Callum O’Dowda (David Connolly, 74), Dave Kitson, James Constable. Subs not used: Max Crocombe, Andy Whing, Danny Rose, Scott Davies, Sam Long.
Star man: Wright – unyielding at the back.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands). Rating: 7/10 – looked to get most things right.
Booked: Andrew 27, Wroe 31, Coulson 66, Reed 74.
Attendance: 7,118 (781 from City).
Shots on target: Oxford 1, City 4.
Shots off target: Oxford 10, City 2.
Corners: Oxford 5, City 5.
Fouls conceded: Oxford 15, City 14.
Offsides: Oxford 1, City 2.
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