MORE needless risk-taking in their own half means York City have now gone on their longest run without a win for eight years.
Following Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Barnet, the Minstermen have not tasted victory for eight matches since their 3-0 New Year’s Day triumph over Burton, representing the worst sequence of results since the club blundered to safety during their first season of Conference football back in 2005.
A 4-0 final day home win over Farnborough eventually ended that sorry nine-game spell but the current team will now try to reverse their fortunes with back-to-back trips to Oxford and Rotherham, followed by a Bootham Crescent meeting with Capital One Cup finalists Bradford City.
If they are to be successful in that quest, then the infuriating season-long habit of surrendering possession in dangerous positions of the pitch must be eradicated immediately.
Following on from Scott Kerr’s attempt to dribble out of his own 18-yard box prior to conceding an early penalty during the 4-0 defeat at Wycombe seven days earlier, Jamal Fyfield’s unnecessary throw inside to on-loan midfielder John McGrath led to an interception that secured the Bees maximum points courtesy of substitute Jake Hyde’s 73rd-minute goal.
The team’s commitment to keeping possession is admirable but more of that football needs to be played in the opposition’s half and there would have been nothing wrong with Fyfield finding somebody’s feet further up the pitch, especially as McGrath’s intention was to simply play the ball back to the struggling left-back.
In League Two, opposition teams generally close down quickly and press high up the pitch, meaning if your touch is not perfect, your passes are not hit accurately or the team’s tempo is low, then you can soon be in trouble.
City have found that to their cost on several occasions this campaign and that was the biggest reason Barnet player-boss Edgar Davids won his battle of the one-time European Cup final winners with home manager Gary Mills.
Former AC Milan and Ajax ace Davids, now 39, actually played a minor role in the victory, almost disappearing from the action during the second half.
Likewise, Chris Smith’s recall to the City team had little bearing on the result despite the growing, but woefully simplistic and, frankly, tiresome tendency to seemingly blame everything on the captain in some circles.
Mills’ defence of his 4-3-3 formation was also understandable, given its success last season and, perhaps just as significantly, the formation’s employment by the majority of teams in the division and indeed country, including Barnet.
But, if the Minstermen are to get back on the winning trail, they also need to threaten teams in the final third of the pitch more and rediscover the attacking verve that saw them score three or more goals in seven matches during the first five months of season.
David Stephens’ seventh-minute own goal from a McGrath free-kick means Mills’ team have now gone six games without netting from open play.
Earlier, former Burton captain McGrath had forced a close-range save from Graham Stack after the ex-Arsenal ’keeper had fumbled Ashley Chambers’ corner at his near post.
Chambers then displayed a lack of incision when, having been given the ball by last man Stephens, he failed to make his pace count and allowed the Barnet centre-back to make a recovery tackle.
The Minstermen forged ahead, though, when McGrath’s excellently-delivered free-kick from the right was shinned into Stack’s bottom left-hand corner by team-mate Stephens.
Matty Blair then called Stack into action at his near post after Curtis Obeng had bamboozled Davids on the touchline. At the other end, Barnet had been limited to a couple of weak headers from debutant and former Celtic striker Craig Beattie before their 26th-minute equaliser.
After Davids won a foul, former Everton midfielder John Oster delivered a left-wing free-kick to match McGrath’s in terms of quality.
Like Stephens, Rankine appeared to lose his bearings and headed towards Michael Ingham’s goal.
The City ’keeper scrambled across his line to spare the on-loan Aldershot striker’s blushes, but Andy Yiadom went on to force the ball over the line from a yard.
At 1-1, in an important game, the moans and groans also gradually became more audible from the home supporters.
On 41 minutes, Blair burst on to a long Jack O’Connell ball through the right channel but was denied a shot on goal by a perfectly-executed sliding challenge from Stephens.
Yiadom then went close with the last touch of the first half – a header from Oster’s corner.
After the break, Jon Nurse sidestepped a Dan Parslow challenge on the edge of the box before shooting narrowly past Ingham’s left-hand upright.
Obeng’s 25-yard half-volley, meanwhile, was saved low to his left by Stack before the hosts hit the self-destruct button.
A short throw by Fyfield got caught under McGrath’s feet and Oster fed the ball through to Hyde.
He then rode a challenge from a recovering McGrath before his curling 15-yard shot nestled into the City net after Ingham was only able to push it onto the inside of his right-hand post.
The Minstermen responded with a McGrath free-kick that cleared the crossbar and an off-target long-range Obeng effort.
Barnet were then reduced to nine men for the last seven minutes when, with all three of their substitutions made, a nasty clash of heads saw Bondz N’Gala being led off for stitches and Nurse stretchered off and taken to hospital.
Smith was thrown forward in stoppage time and went closest to claiming an equaliser with two headers.
His first flicked off the top of the crossbar after Ben Everson had volleyed into the ground and the second finished too high from ten yards after a cross by the former Icelandic premier division striker.
York City 1 (Stephens og 7), Barnet 2 (Yiadom 25; Hyde 73)
Michael Ingham 6
Unlucky with the second goal and did his best to keep out the first as well.
Dan Parslow 6
Generally solid other than the odd slip as he changed position yet again.
Chris Smith 6
Suffered from an occasional uncertain moment, but won most of his aerial battles.
Jack O’Connell 7
STAR MAN – continues to belie his teenage years with assured display at the back.
Jamal Fyfield 4
Caught daydreaming at times, tentative in the tackle and looks bereft of confidence.
Scott Kerr 6
Industrious enough, but struggled to influence the game prior to his second-half withdrawal.
John McGrath 7
Provided quality on the ball and a busy midfield presence, but partly at fault for winning goal.
Curtis Obeng 6
Showed quick feet at times and a willingness to shoot at goal.
Matty Blair 5
Struggling for quality on the ball and enduring a difficult run of form.
Michael Rankine 5
Failed to match the standards he set during his second debut for the club against Gillingham.
Ashley Chambers 5
Made few inroads from the left flank and failed to threaten Barnet goal.
Subs: Alex Rodman 5 – quiet (for Chambers, 56), Jason Walker 6 – competitive (for Rankine, 69), Ben Everson (for Kerr, 79). Subs not used: Musselwhite, Potts, McLaughlin, Allan.
Graham Stack, Barry Fuller, David Stephens, Chiro N’Toko (Bondz N’Gala, 81), Jordan Brown (Elliot Johnson, 46), Andy Yiadom, Mark Byrne, Edgar Davids, John Oster, Jon Nurse, Craig Beattie (Jake Hyde, 66). Subs not used: Clovis Kamdjo, Curtis Weston, Dillon Barnes, Dani Lopez.
Star man: Oster – comfortable on ball and dangerous from dead balls.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
Rating: 7/10 – gave little cause for complaint and generally sensible.
Booked: Stack 90.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 3,594 (311 from Barnet).
Shots on target: City 5, Barnet 4.
Shots off target: City 4, Barnet 4.
Corners: City 12, Barnet 4.
Fouls conceded: City 12, Barnet 12.
Offsides: City 3, Barnet 1.