MICHAEL Coulson received the plaudits from York City boss Nigel Worthington after his second penalty in as many games secured a 1-0 win at play-off rivals Oxford.
The Minstermen moved back into Sky Bet League Two’s top-seven places with three games left to play after Coulson converted from the spot on 47 minutes.
His sixth goal of the campaign meant Worthington’s side jumped two points above eighth-placed Oxford, who now travel to a Scunthorpe team needing a win to clinch promotion on Easter Monday while City host Bury.
Coulson had only taken one penalty prior to assuming the responsibility in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Accrington.
His only previous effort saw him hit the bar in a Capital One Cup shoot-out defeat on his Minstermen debut at Doncaster back in 2012.
But, without his nerve from 12 yards during the last two games, City would now be three points worse off and Worthington praised the ex-Scarborough and Barnsley attacker for taking on spot-kicking duties with Wes Fletcher sidelined and Ryan Jarvis and Ryan Bowman both out of the side at the moment.
The City chief said: “It is credit to him that he has stepped up in the absence of others and slotted the penalties away because that takes character. I never identify penalty takers because it’s a very personal thing.
“I don’t think it’s fair to nominate people when they might not be comfortable doing it. For me, it is up to whoever is on the pitch and is feeling confident to take them.
“We have only missed the one at Mansfield this season, so we have done well in that respect but the other important thing Michael is doing is giving the team fantastic energy and setting a real example of how to work hard for the team.”
City won the penalty when former Premier League striker Dave Kitson was adjudged to have handled the ball deliberately after Russell Penn helped on a Will Hayhurst corner to the near post.
Referee Oliver Langford did not see the infringement but his assistant Jake Hillier signalled the offence and a relieved Worthington said: “It amazed me that the referee didn’t give it because he was stood right next to it and I thought it was handball from 50 yards away but, thankfully, the linesman flagged it.
“The incident itself showed the importance of getting the ball in the box and keeping it in there too.”
Worthington was also impressed with the manner in which his side protected their one-goal lead, having conceded a stoppage-time equaliser against Accrington Stanley six days earlier.
He added: “It was a big game that was hard fought and it’s a terrific win at the business end of the season. Oxford are a good side and they started off very brightly but we withstood that early pressure.
“It is the time of the season when nobody wants to give anything away and, when things are tight, you have to do your jobs until the game gets stretched and then you have to take your chances. There were chances to add to our lead but the important thing again was to keep a clean sheet and we did that.
“They had a go at the end, as you have to do in that situation. But, hopefully, we learned our lesson from last week and managed the game a bit better by doing the right things and slowing play down.”
A total of 781 City supporters made the bank holiday trip to the Kassam Stadium with a grateful Worthington enthusing: “Our fans travelled all the way down on Good Friday, which is not an easy journey to make and we were glad to send them away with smiles on their faces.”
The Minstermen now stand just four-and-a-half hours of football away from claiming a play-off place but, for now, Worthington is focusing simply on producing a better display on Monday than his team’s first-half showing during a 2-1 defeat at Bury back in December.
“With three games to play, we have just got to keep things ticking over because there’s plenty still to play for,” he reasoned. “Bury are first up and the game at their place was one of the few I have bad memories from for the first 45 minutes so I am looking forward to it.”