SCOTT Kerr and John McGrath might have gone a combined total of 185 games without a league goal but the shot-shy midfielders are the only York City players to extend the opposition goalkeeper during the club’s last two matches.
Kerr, who has played 139 matches since his last league strike, forced Chris Neal into his only worthwhile save during the Minstermen’s 2-0 home defeat to Port Vale.
Indeed, the under-employed Neal was required to make only one other stop – a straightforward catch from Chris Smith’s header seconds before the visitors forged in front on seven minutes.
Those efforts mean the Minstermen have mustered only three shots on target in their last three hours of football after McGrath, currently suffering a 46-game drought, was the only man to call Rochdale ’keeper Josh Lillis into action during the previous game.
It is all too deeply worrying for City’s distressed supporters who have now seen their team fail to score from open play in seven matches at Bootham Crescent.
During that time, only an own goal and a Jason Walker penalty have featured on the hosts’ scoresheet and the Minstermen have now netted in just three of their last nine fixtures.
It cannot be denied that there are few more concerning factors in football than when a team stops scoring, as witnessed when the club last lost their League status in 2004.
To compound that fear, it seems that even bottom-of-the-table Accrington Stanley have now discovered their shooting boots, scoring three goals to beat Barnet at the weekend – something that City haven’t managed in 14 win-less games since New Year’s Day.
Crucially, the Minstermen will play three of the five teams below them in their next four matches, starting with Torquay on Saturday, and it is clear new boss Nigel Worthington must quickly manufacture some means of improving his inherited team’s sorry recent record in front of goal.
One option if Michael Rankine, without a league goal in 32 matches, is to continue spearheading the attack could be to try Matty Blair as his striking partner.
Last season’s 20-goal leading marksman, with his pace, stamina and heart, could just be the man best suited to feeding off any scraps provided by Rankine’s physical presence.
At the other end of the pitch, meanwhile, David McGurk and Lanre Oyebanjo, if both fit, must be strong contenders for recalls, even if that means Jack O’Connell switching to left-back and utility man Dan Parslow being restored to the centre of midfield, where Kerr and McGrath, even allowing for their goal attempts, are struggling to impose themselves on proceedings.
Worthington has also spoken about the need for character during the final seven games after the likes of Ashley Chambers and Jamal Fyfield looked a little fearful faced with the current travails at times on Saturday.
Both Fyfield and fellow full-back Parslow were certainly given torrid times at the weekend.
After Smith’s header had been safely gathered by Neal following a Fyfield free-kick, gifted Vale winger Jennison Myrie-Williams escaped Parslow’s attentions for the first time to fire an angled 15-yard drive into Michael Ingham’s bottom left-hand corner.
On ten minutes, McGrath then hoisted a free-kick high into the heavily-populated away end before Lee Hughes squandered a great opportunity to double the visitors’ lead after O’Connell had been caught a little flat-footed following an agricultural boot out of defence by John McCombe.
With only Ingham to beat, however, Hughes fired wide across the face of goal.
Another chance to extend Vale’s lead was passed up on 27 minutes by Myrie-Williams, whose weakly-struck penalty was saved low to his left by Ingham, sparing Fyfield’s blushes after he clumsily clipped Hughes’ heels as he prepared to shoot to concede the spot kick.
On the half-hour mark, Neal was tested for the final time when he clawed away Kerr’s 20-yard effort that seemed destined for his top left-hand corner.
Ingham then had to be equally as alert to parry a stinging Myrie-Williams drive after he burst through the left channel following a Parslow misjudgement.
For City, Chambers carried much less conviction when offered a clear sight of goal by Rankine on the stroke of half-time, lifting his shot out of the ground and into Grosvenor Road.
Not since the glorious play-off final victory over Luton have City come back from behind to win a match and, despite nearly a whole half still left to play, there was a feeling that the game had ended as a contest when Hughes scored Vale’s second goal on 48 minutes.
Myrie-Williams again left Parslow trailing in his wake after exchanging passes with Tom Pope and then provided an inviting cross that was gleefully snaffled up by ex-Premier League poacher Hughes at the far post.
The match subsequently petered out with Rankine heading wide and half-time replacement Jamie Reed volleying against the roof of the David Longhurst Stand.
Smith also saw a 15-yard shot deflected off target before heading over from a McGrath corner.
Despondency is now spreading among the Bootham Crescent faithful and City’s players must quickly respond to Worthington’s challenge to prove they are willing to stave off the very real threat of relegation.
Otherwise, the Football League status that took eight long years to regain will have been devastatingly and incredulously lost again in little more than eight months.
York City 0, Port Vale 2 (Myrie-Williams 7; Hughes 48)
Michael Ingham 8
STAR MAN – kept his team in the game before the break with two fine saves.
Dan Parslow 5
Given a real tough time by Myrie-Williams’ speed and distribution has started going awry on difficult pitch.
Chris Smith 7
More need to match the captain’s commitment and he also looks most likely to grab a goal at the other end of the pitch.
Jack O’Connell 6
Facing a real examination of his tender years and responding better than most bar odd sign of vulnerability.
Jamal Fyfield 5
Looked ill-equipped for current situation and calamitous at times, summed up by his concession of penalty.
Ashley Chambers 5
Only involved in sporadic bursts and blazed only chance woefully over the bar.
Scott Kerr 6
Came closest to finding the net but finding it hard to grasp hold of a game in a two-man midfield.
John McGrath 5
Contribution was largely restricted to set-pieces, which were not of previous quality.
Josh Carson 6
Sometimes forgotten on the left flank, but looked assured when switched to full-back.
Michael Rankine 6
Led the line well in the first half before seemingly giving up the ghost following Port Vale’s second goal.
Jason Walker 5
Nothing went right for him on the difficult pitch and could not feed off Rankine’s knock downs.
Subs: Jamie Reed 5 – scrappy (for Walker, 46), Matty Blair 6 – enthusiastic (for Chambers, 61), Paddy McLaughlin (for Fyfield, 78). Not used: Jameson, Doig, Potts, McDaid.
Chris Neal, Adam Yates, Liam Chilvers, John McCombe, Robert Taylor, Jennison Myrie-Williams (Calvin Andrew, 87), Chris Birchall, Anthony Griffith, Louis Dodds (Chris Shuker, 90), Tom Pope, Lee Hughes (Ben Williamson, 78).
Subs not used: Joe Davis, Ryan Lloyd, Ryan Boot, Dan Jones.
Star man: Myrie-Williams – constantly menaced Parslow with his pace.
Referee: Andy Haines (Sunderland).
Rating: 7/10 – managed the game reasonably well and decisions seemed sensible.
Booked: Birchall 45, Hughes 64, Neal 77.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 3,945 (1,045 from Port Vale).
Shots on target: City 2, Port Vale 4.
Shots off target: City 6, Port Vale 3.
Corners: City 7, Port Vale 5.
Fouls conceded: City 8, Port Vale 16.
Offsides: City 1, Port Vale 3.