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York City and Hartlepool United not at the races in Sky Bet League Two stalemate
York City 0, Hartlepool Utd 0
UNLIKE the thousands that will flock to the Ebor meeting this week, York City and Hartlepool were never at the races during a contest that would have shamed Knavesmire’s council pitches.
Michael Ingham and his Hartlepool counterpart Scott Flinders did not make a single save during a dreadfully drab encounter between two teams who have now managed only a goal apiece from a combined 12 hours of football this season.
The portents for an entertaining encounter were not good when towering veterans Richard Cresswell and Steve Howard lined up at opposite ends of Bootham Crescent as their teams’ respective lone strikers.
It was soon evident that those fears were warranted with both sides tempted all too often to launch long aimless balls towards their 6ft-something target-men.
This proved a particularly flawed ploy for the hosts with the three men assigned to provide the most support for Cresswell rarely in close proximity to the 35-year-old forward to fend off any scraps.
Ashley Chambers and Ryan Jarvis were virtual bystanders on the flanks while Tom Platt, playing in the advanced midfield role created by City boss Nigel Worthington’s reversion to a 4-3-3 formation, was equally ineffective.
As a consequence, the Minstermen failed to muster a single shot – on or off target – during the entire first period.
Despite long-range misses from Craig Clay, Lanre Oyebanjo and Jarvis, the second half was just as uninspiring, with substitute Wes Fletcher left as isolated in attack as Cresswell.
On the few occasions the ball did land on a greasy Bootham Crescent surface, neither side possessed anybody in midfield who looked prepared to put their foot on it and bring some quality to proceedings as possession was repeatedly and carelessly conceded. City also almost gave away a penalty after only seven minutes when Oyebanjo was judged to have felled Howard inches outside the 18-yard area when the offence looked like it might have been committed inside.
Shortly afterwards, Howard scooped over from ten yards following Jack Compton’s deflected corner but the 37-year-old forward then escaped an early shower when he caught City defender Tom Allan with a flailing elbow but was only shown a yellow card.
The hosts’ best chance of the match arrived on 27 minutes when Ingham’s free-kick into the visitors’ penalty box skimmed off the head of Pools defender Jack Baldwin to leave Flinders stranded.
Team-mate Neil Austin was alert to the danger, however, charging back to his own goal line to clear the danger.
At the other end, James Poole shot across the face of Ingham’s goal after displaying intelligent movement to collect an Andy Monkhouse through ball.
Following the interval, Clay dragged an edge-of-the-box effort wide after Oyebanjo had carried the ball at the heart of the visitors’ defence.
Platt then gave the ball away cheaply inside the Hartlepool half but, when Brad Walker sprinted down the right and delivered a cross that Clay misjudged, Compton sliced woefully wide from 15 yards.
On 74 minutes, Oyebanjo saw a 20-yard chance deflect wide off the heels of a team-mate and Jarvis drove over from the same distance after manufacturing a shooting chance for himself.
It was Howard, though, who went closest to securing maximum points.
Leaping highest to meet Compton’s left-wing cross to the far post, Howard’s downward header beat Ingham but City skipper Chris Smith was on hand to clear off the line.
The final whistle brought relief and respite for home fans and the 1,714 supporters from Hartlepool, who not only had their loyalty tested by a match as pitifully unimaginative and tediously tiresome as a Kevin Nolan chicken dance celebration but also by the drenching they received in the Grosvenor Road end.
For City, the optimism of an opening day win at Northampton might now have been somewhat doused, although a return of four points from a possible nine still sees the team sitting in mid-table during the early league standings.
The team’s lack of potency, however, will be a growing cause of concern for Worthington.
One goal in four matches is a strike-rate the Minstermen will certainly need to improve on with some purpose to avoid being among the division’s also-rans again this term.
Ingham 6 - pretty much redundant other than the odd decent punch when put under pressure aerially
Oyebanjo 6 - tried to carry the game to Hartlepool in the second half but seemed lucky not to concede a penalty early on
Smith 7 - his goal-line clearance was the single most telling contribution by a home player
Allan 6 - caught napping during early stages a little but recovered and stayed focussed for remainder of the match
Davies 6 - did not let Monkhouse have much joy down his flank and stuck to his task throughout
Parslow 5 - often in the right place at the right time but was let down by his distribution in several instances
Clay 5 - could not get a grip on the match from the middle of the park and never in possession for a meaningful time
Platt 5 - ran around with too little purpose for the most part and failed to break from midfield to support the front men
Jarvis 5 - rarely involved and stayed positioned out wide when more movement inside might have made his markers work a little harder
Cresswell 5 - spent just over an hour contesting aerial battles and hard to recall many touches with his feet
Chambers 5 - not helped by quality of service but produced nothing of any attacking substance before his second-half withdrawal
Subs: Michael Coulson 5 - underwhelming (for Chambers, 62), Wes Fletcher 5 - peripheral (for Cresswell, 66), Ryan Bowman (for Jarvis, 86). Subs not used: Chris Kettings, Lewis Montrose, Jamal Fyfield, Mike Atkinson.
Hartlepool: Scott Flinders, Neil Austin, Jack Baldwin, Christian Burgess, Darren Holden, Andy Monkhouse, Simon Walton, Brad Walker, Jack Compton, James Poole (Luke James, 77), Steve Howard (Nialle Rodney, 84). Subs not used: Sam Collins, Jonathan Franks, Andy Rafferty, Jordan Richards, Zak Boagey.
Hartlepool star man: Poole - looked to have some form of attacking spark Booked: Howard 26, Burgess 83.
Attendance: 4,768 (1,714 from Hartlepool)
Referee: David Phillips (Chichester). Rating: 5/10 - gave a performance in line with that of most of the players.
Shots on target: City 0, Hartlepool 1
Shots off target: City 3, Hartlepool 4
Corners: City 6, Hartlepool 5
Fouls conceded: City 6, Hartlepool 10
Offsides: City 2, Hartlepool 2
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