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Match report: Cheltenham Town 1, York City 1
YORK City have now avoided defeat on the road in seven of their eight contests against League Two’s top-ten teams.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Cheltenham saw the high-flying Robins join new leaders Port Vale, Exeter, Rotherham, Southend, Fleetwood and Bradford on a growing list of leading host clubs frustrated by Gary Mills’ Minstermen this term.
In fact, Burton remain the only side in those top-ten positions to have secured a home win over City in 2012/13 with Gillingham next up a week on Saturday.
City are also still to visit Northampton, tenth, as well as Rotherham in the league although they have already won at the Millers’ New York Stadium this season in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, becoming the first-ever visiting team to do so in the process.
That victory was, admittedly, the only win the Bootham Crescent club have managed in those seven tricky fixtures, the other games ending honours even.
In fact, only Shrewsbury with 12 league draws – a tally one greater than the Minstermen – have shared the spoils more in England’s top four divisions during this campaign.
But, if the sign of a successful team, as is so often stated, is picking up points on your travels and winning your home games then City are, at the very least, half the way there in their first Football League season for nine years.
It took an 84th-minute Jason Walker equaliser and a defiant double save from Michael Ingham to secure City’s latest point but there was again little to choose between Mills’ side and their promotion-chasing opponents.
In truth, after a fairly mundane first half, the game had meandered along a little until Mark Yates made the first tactical move by introducing dangerous wingers Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed from the bench.
With Mills mirroring Cheltenham’s 4-1-3-2 formation due to his ever-diminishing number of available wide men, the game had been far from expansive with only home right-back Sido Jombati showing any real attacking intent down the flanks.
But the pace and positivity of McGlashan and Mohamed livened up proceedings midway through the second period with the latter setting up Shaun Harrad for an emphatic deadlock-breaking strike just two minutes later.
The City boss, though, responded with a double substitution of his own, throwing on Jon Challinor and want-away striker Jamie Reed, while withdrawing midfield pair Michael Potts and Paddy McLaughlin, as he looked to drive his team forward.
It worked with Matty Blair threatening before Walker pounced to claim his eighth goal of the season. Earlier, the visitors had created a hat-trick of chances before Cheltenham managed their first shot.
McLaughlin tried his luck with two edge-of-the-box efforts – the first wide and the second saved – while, in between, home ’keeper Scott Brown was required to make a routine save from Blair’s curling long-distance attempt.
Long throws from Marlon Pack are one of Cheltenham’s most potent attacking weapons and, after the home midfielder hurled one of his missiles into City’s six-yard box, Jamal Fyfield did well to block Jeff Goulding’s shot on the turn.
Keith Lowe also headed over from close range following a Billy Jones corner and, as half-time approached after Blair had volleyed high for the Minstermen, Jake Taylor also drove over from 20 yards after sidestepping a Fyfield challenge.
After the break, Potts played in Blair through the right channel but the City striker’s low drive was saved at his near post by Brown.
Ingham, meanwhile, acted with alertness to smother an unmarked Harrad shot following Jones’ excellent cross to the far post. His Cheltenham counterpart was equally swift off his line moments later when Walker raced on to a Scott Kerr pass.
Kerr, playing in an advanced position ahead of midfield anchorman Parslow, then went close to claiming the game’s first goal – and a rare one for himself – when his 25-yard drive flashed narrowly wide.
But it was the Gloucestershire side that forged in front on 67 minutes when Parslow failed to clear on the edge of his own box and Mohamed played the ball through to Harrad, who curled a sumptuous shot beyond Ingham from 15 yards.
Shortly afterwards, Lowe headed narrowly wide from a Jones corner but City fought back with Fyfield and Blair attempts preceding Walker’s leveller. Kerr delivered an inviting free-kick to the far post where captain Chris Smith won the first header before stabbing the ball towards Walker on the edge of the six-yard box.
The former Barrow and Luton forward then thrust out his right boot to find Brown’s bottom left-hand corner with his first-time effort.
Ingham, though, came to the rescue in injury time when he first kicked the ball away after Fyfield had slid in to prevent McGlashan netting and then launched himself to his left to keep out Harrad’s follow-up attempt.
In the sixth and final minute of stoppage time, Robins centre-back Steve Elliott went on to drag a 15-yard chance wide after substitute Tom Allan’s headed clearance lacked power from a Jones corner.
But City clung on for their point against last season’s beaten play-off finalists, who have now gone ten League games unbeaten at their Whaddon Road base.
Cheltenham 1 (Harrad 67), York City 1 (Walker 84)
Michael Ingham 8
STAR MAN – excellent last line of defence and untroubled by long throws.
Lanre Oyebanjo 7
Only managed to raid forward once, but solid enough defensively.
Chris Smith 8
Claimed another assist from a set-piece and captain epitomised his team’s spirit.
David McGurk 7
Competed well, especially in the air, as Cheltenham launched balls into the box.
Jamal Fyfield 7
A little shaky at the start, but recovered well with a reliable second half.
Dan Parslow 8
Might have cleared ball better for Cheltenham goal, but near perfect positionally.
Michael Potts 8
Worked diligently and always looked liable to unlock the home defence.
Scott Kerr 8
Revelled in more advanced role, teeing up team-mates and almost scoring.
Paddy McLaughlin 6
Got a couple of early shots away, but faded a little before being replaced.
Jason Walker 7
Showed the clinical streak City have been craving this term for his goal.
Matty Blair 7
Not quite his day, but always a threat with his pace and desire through the middle.
Subs: Tom Allan (for McGurk, 71), Jamie Reed (for Potts, 73), Jon Challinor (for McLaughlin, 73).
Not used: Paul Musselwhite, Lee Bullock, John McReady, Tom Platt.
Scott Brown, Sido Jombati, Keith Lowe, Steve Elliott, Billy Jones, Jake Taylor (Sam Deering, 90), Marlon Pack, Darren Carter (Jermaine McGlashan, 65), Russell Penn, Jeff Goulding (Kaid Mohamed, 65), Shaun Harrad.
Subs not used: Darryl Duffy, Connor Roberts, Alan Bennett, Joe Hanks.
Star man: Jones – dangerous left foot from dead balls and open play.
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire).
Rating: 7/10 – punished seemingly fair tackles, most notably for Oyebanjo’s booking, but competent otherwise.
Booked: Potts 16, Penn 30, Oyebanjo 54, Harrad 68, Pack 83.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 2,881 (266 from City).
Shots on target: Cheltenham 6, City 6.
Shots off target: Cheltenham 10, City 5.
Corners: Cheltenham 9, City 5.
Fouls conceded: Cheltenham 12, City 14.
Offsides: Cheltenham 2, City 5.