YORK City are hoping Jason Walker will have recovered from illness in time to face Exeter on Saturday.
Walker was replaced at half-time after playing a key role in ensuring the Minstermen kicked off 2013 with a 3-0 home victory over Burton yesterday.
The 27-year-old striker converted a 13th-minute penalty to open the scoring at Bootham Crescent with his seventh goal of the season before going on to deliver the corner that saw Paddy McLaughlin double the hosts’ advantage.
Walker, though, made way for Jamie Reed after the break because he did not feel well with Matty Blair going on to put the outcome beyond doubt after a superb 81st-minute solo goal.
Said City chief Gary Mills: “He (Walker) started to feel really weak and ill during the first half so he came off at half-time but we’re hoping it’s not anything too bad. I also thought Reedy came on and held the ball up well in the second half.”
With the Minstermen having struggled to threaten from set-pieces this season, Walker was handed corner-taking responsibility against Burton to good effect.
On six minutes, McLaughlin had seen a chance cleared off the line from the former Barrow and Luton striker’s first flag-kick of the game but the Northern Ireland under-21 international was not to be denied a second time when visiting goalkeeper Dean Lyness failed to deal with a dangerous inswinging Walker delivery.
“We’ve not scored too many from corners and we’ve always known Jason’s quality from dead-ball situations,” Mills explained. “We see it in training all the time and first thought about him taking them a couple of weeks ago.
“We felt the time was right and he put an unbelievable ball in for the second goal.”
Mils also acclaimed Blair for his goal, which saw him sprint with the ball from inside City’s half before blasting past Lyness from 20 yards.
He said: “That was great from Blairy. When you’re a defender looking at him, in the last ten minutes of a game, you’re thinking ‘oh no’.
“With his pace, he’s not an easy man to chase when he runs with the ball and it was a great run and finish for his goal. At 3-0, that took a bit of pressure off as well.”
The City boss also believed City belatedly got their reward for a series of promising performances over the festive period, Mills felt his team were the better side during the trips to Chesterfield and Fleetwood, which resulted in a 3-0 defeat and a 0-0 draw respectively.
He said: “The players have been incredible over the Christmas period and, even though we’ve only picked up four points from a possible nine, the performances have been excellent. The two clean sheets we have kept in the last two games have enabled us to go on and pick up points.
“Burton are a tough side to play against but we defended very well all over the park. We got three goals, a clean sheet and three points, so that’s a fantastic start to the New Year.”
Following on from the 4-1 defeat of Bristol Rovers, victory over Burton also represented the Minstermen’s first back-to-back home wins in 23 matches at Bootham Crescent.
On that record, Mills added: “We’ve been unfortunate at times because we’ve played well in spells at home and not got the results we deserved although some people might say if you don’t take your chances you don’t deserve to win.
“But we haven’t felt sorry for ourselves and those chances have gone in during the last two matches.”
In his penultimate match before the end of his loan spell from Aldershot, Alex Rodman was brought down for Walker’s penalty and also claimed an assist for Blair’s goal.
It was a display that did the former Tamworth striker’s chances of extending his stay in North Yorkshire beyond this weekend no harm at all with Mills saying: “I thought he was excellent and it was the best I’ve seen him over 90 minutes.
“He got back and defended when he needed to do and won some decent headers in the box, which I did not know he was capable of. He drove at their back four when he got on the ball and I was really pleased with his performance.”