WHEN in doubt, kick it out.
Yelled out on pitches all over the nation, it’s a phrase York City’s players will do well to burn into their brains for the rest of the Sky Bet League Two campaign.
Under pressure from a Tranmere Rovers side throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the Minstermen, desperately seeking an equaliser after defender Keith Lowe put the visitors in front with a commanding header midway through the second half, Nigel Worthington’s side had numerous chances to punt the ball up the pitch to safety as stoppage time ran down.
But they got too cute, chipping a pass when leather was required and playing little inside balls that sent the watching York boss into apoplexy on the sideline.
He knew the dangers. Soon his team did too.
Down to ten men, after skipper Marcus Holness limped off the pitch with boss Rob Edwards having used all three of his substitutions, Tranmere fashioned one last chance and James Rowe ripped a fierce volley from just inside the area past the despairing right hand of Jason Mooney in the net.
The debutant keeper got a hand to the shot but could only help it on its way into the far corner as Tranmere stole two points from City’s grasp.
It was such a shame because, on the whole, Worthington’s new look City had put in an impressive shift. They wore down the home crowd, eventually muzzled the influential Jason Koumas and then took control with an excellent goal.
Lindon Meikle’s corner, on 67 minutes, was planted right on the head of defensive lynchpin Lowe. He had cleverly moved away from his marker and his fierce, downward, connection left defenders and Tranmere keeper Owain Fon Williams flailing in its wake.
He almost had another nine minutes later, Williams somehow getting his hands to an even better header from the centre-half as York looked to rubber-stamp the victory.
Unfortunately, it was a miss they would later rue.
With goalscoring hope Jake Hyde forced out of the clash after picking up a knee injury in training, Worthington naturally still handed out debuts across the side.
Mooney won the race to stand between the City sticks – his first competitive start for the Minstermen coming against his former club – and both channels of the York eleven were completely re-shaped from last season.
Femi Ilesanmi and Anthony Straker linked up down the left, while Marvin McCoy and Meikle patrolled the right.
Worthington also opted not to risk Luke Summerfield in the centre of midfield following his recovery from a knee problem – preferring Tom Platt to partner Russell Penn.
The Minstermen manager had stressed pre-match the need to silence the Prenton Park faithful and it was a directive his players carried out with gusto early on.
They could even have had a penalty after 11 minutes, Michael Coulson chopped down after Meikle played the ball to him in the six yard box but referee Kevin Johnson was unmoved.
Meikle, involved frequently at this stage, soon tested Williams with a curling, low, shot from just outside the box that the shot-stopper had to get down to his right to gather.
But Tranmere, with former Premier League stalwart Koumas pulling the strings, became more assured as the half went on.
Jake Kirby blasted a shot over the bar on 20 minutes and, while City were unable to unlock the Rovers defence when they got into attacking positions, their opponents were more wasteful in front of goal.
Shortly after the half hour mark, Koumas swept a wonderful ball across the six yard area in behind the City back four and, after being found by Kirby, all Cole Stockton needed to do was hit the target.
He stumbled and York got it away, moving forward on the counter-attack for Straker to strike a shot wide of Williams' left-hand post.
Koumas then hit a skidding drive from 20 yards that Mooney got down well to smother and, as the half came to a close, Coulson hit a swerving pile-driver from 25 yards that Williams batted away acrobatically from the top corner.
Tranmere started strongly after the break, with Koumas again at the heart of matters. Max Power’s shot was blocked after the ex-West Brom player directed a training ground routine from a free-kick and Michael Ihiekwe somehow failed to connect at the far post from his ensuing corner.
But York then stepped up a gear.
A dipping shot from Coulson just cleared the bar on 54 minutes, following a trademark run into the centre of the D from Ilesanmi’s corner, before Lowe rose the highest in the centre of the penalty area to give York the lead.
Williams did amazingly well to deny him soon after but only after Eliot Richards had somehow failed to find the net with a glancing header from Rowe’s free kick.
Both Coulson and substitute Ben Hirst then threatened to double the advantage for the visitors as Tranmere pushed further and further forward and City really began to assert.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t take the chances given to them and neither could they close the game out. It’s a mistake they probably won’t make again in a hurry.
Jason Mooney: Could only get a hand to goal in an otherwise assured debut - 7
Marvin McCoy: Long throws caused hassle, particularly early on - 7
Keith Lowe: STAR MAN - superb in air and on ground. Took goal superbly - 9
John McCombe: Central defensive partnership with Lowe just gets better and better - 8
Femi Ilesanmi: Linked up well with winger Anthony Straker on the left - 7
Lindon Meikle: Deadly set-piece delivery brought Lowe’s second half goal - 7
Russell Penn: Thundered into tackles all over pitch, provided bite in midfield - 7
Tom Platt: Assured start but looked to tire in the heat in the second half - 7
Anthony Straker: Ran himself ragged down City’s left flank - 7
Ryan Jarvis: Willing worker, but little chance to shine in front of goal - 7
Michael Coulson: Unlucky not to score. A threat in centre and wide - 8
Subs: Ben Hirst 7 (for Jarvis, 73) – Lively; Luke Summerfield (for Straker, 78) – Little chance for real impact; Lewis Montrose (for Coulson, 91). Not used: Michael Ingham, Daniel Parslow, Dave Winfield, Cameron Murray.
Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Michael Ihiekwe, Max Power (James Rowe, 62), Marcus Holness, Jake Kirby, Jason Koumas (Abdulai Baggie, 71), Marc Laird, Eliot Richards (Kayode Odejayi, 78), Danny Woodards, Cole Stockton. Subs not used: Matt Gill, Matt Hill, Clayton McDonald, Luke Pilling.
Star man: Koumas – a little long in the tooth, but still a quality midfielder.
Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset).
Rating: 7/10 - A little fussy but generally tried to let the game flow.
Booked: Penn 84. Sent off: None.
Attendance: 6,287 (823 from York).
Shots on target: Rovers 4, City 6.
Shots off target: Rovers 4, City 5.
Corners: Rovers 6, City 6.
Fouls conceded: Rovers 5, City 12.
Offsides: Rovers 1, City 1.