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Match preview: Gillingham v York City
OLI Johnson is hoping to put an “awful” start to his York City career behind him during the last three months of the season.
The 25-year-old forward has been restricted to just one start and six substitute outings since his summer switch from Oxford United due to a troublesome groin and stomach injury.
After surgery and a complete two-month lay-off, however, he returned to action as a substitute during this week’s 1-0 reserve defeat to Scunthorpe.
The Wakefield-born forward had made 109 appearances during four campaigns as a professional prior to this season for previous clubs Stockport, Norwich, Yeovil and Oxford.
His injury troubles this term, therefore, have been all the more difficult to contend with.
Describing the last six months, Johnson confessed: “It’s been awful. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my career.
“It’s a new thing football has thrown at me. I know injuries are part of football but it’s been so frustrating, especially joining a new club because you want to make an impression and I’ve not been able to do that.
“I was carrying injuries into games for weeks earlier in the season and was desperate to get it sorted which, hopefully, it has been now.”
Having plied his trade in Lancashire, Norfolk, Somerset and Oxfordshire, prior to returning to his home county last summer, Johnson is desperate to turn his fortunes around at Bootham Crescent.
“I want to be a success at York more than anything,” he added. “I was made up coming here and thought this was my chance to get settled somewhere and really start enjoying my football and progressing.
“So far, that’s just not been the way, but that’s just one of those things. There’s nothing I could have done about it really. Hopefully, that’s behind me now and I can kick on.”
Johnson is also quick to point out his absence this season has not been caused by a succession of problems, shooting down any suggestions that he might be injury prone.
“It’s been a groin and stomach issue but, hopefully, the operation has cleared things up,” he revealed. “It’s been the same problem since I’ve been here, not a case of different injuries. I just need to keep strengthening that area now by doing my extra stuff.”
City boss Gary Mills has suggested Johnson’s return to fitness could have come at an opportune time for the player with fellow attackers Ashley Chambers and Michael Coulson both currently crocked.
But the former Championship performer pointed out that he would still expect to nail down a first-team place if Mills had a full complement of players to choose from, explaining: “I need to get back in whether other players are fit or not.
“Fighting for my place would not be a problem but, in a sense, I suppose, because of the injuries, the quicker I get fit, the quicker I can get in the team.”
Johnson was given 20 minutes against Scunthorpe as he returned to action for the first time since City’s FA Cup exit at AFC Wimbledon in mid-November.
Minstermen boss Mills also used the game to run the rule over on-trial wing pair David McDaid and Martin Devaney and, on his comeback game, Johnson said: “It was nice to get back out on a pitch even if was just a case of blowing a few cobwebs away.
“To be honest, I did not really know how long I would be playing before the game. I knew they (Mills and physio Jeff Miller) did not want to throw me in for 90 minutes and run the risk of aggravating anything so it was just a case of easing myself back in.
“I felt I was lacking a bit of sharpness and that I’d lost that half a yard but I think that will come soon with training and games because I need to be back as quickly as possible both for the club and myself.”
While the final phase of Johnson’s rehabilitation has also coincided with the recent snow, the 5ft 11in forward insisted it has not been a massive inconvenience on his road back to fitness, saying: “We’ve been able to train on the 3G pitches at Roko and the University of York so that’s not been much of a problem. I’ve been able to use the gym facilities as well.”
CITY’S last Football League visit to the Priestfield Stadium was on January 16, 1999, when they lost a Division Two (League One) encounter 3-1.
Rodney Rowe was the scorer and the line-up was: Mimms, McMillan, Jones, Barras, Himsworth, Connelly (Garratt), Jordan, Tinkler, Hall, Cresswell, Rowe.
In total, they have made 18 League trips to Gillingham, winning four times and drawing seven.
The victories were 2-1 in 1961/2, 2-1 in 1985/6, 4-1 in 1992/3 and 1-0 in 1996/7.
It happened on January 26
1938: A 4-0 home win over Chester with goals from Sam Earl (2), Reg Baines and Malcolm Comrie in Division Three North.
1952: Oldham Athletic were beaten 5-0 at Bootham Crescent with Alf Patrick notching a hat-trick and Billy Fenton scoring twice. The attendance for the Northern Section game was 9,027.
1957: Billy Fenton and Billy Hughes were on target in a 2-1 win in a Northern Section encounter at Bradford City. The crowd at Valley Parade totalled 13,281.
1985: A famous FA Cup fourth round 1-0 win over Arsenal with Keith Houchen netting a late penalty in front of a crowd of 10,840. The line-up was: Astbury, Senior, Hay, Sbragia, MacPhail, Haslegrave, Ford, Butler, Walwyn, Houchen, Pearce.
2002: In City’s last appearance in the fourth round of the FA Cup, Fulham won 2-0 at Bootham Crescent watched by 7,563.
2008: City beat Blue Square Premier leaders Aldershot Town at home 2-0 with goals from Richard Brodie and Martyn Woolford watched by 3,092. It was the ninth League game without defeat.
Compiled by David Batters