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York City kick-start is a timely lift for John McCombe
JOHN McCombe is determined to hold on to his starting role at York City.
Having only made the first XI for five Sky Bet League Two games in as many months at previous club Mansfield, McCombe has been delighted to kick off the last three games for the team he joined during the transfer window.
The 28-year-old defender is now in no mood to surrender his centre-back spot even when David McGurk recovers from the back spasm that has kept him sidelined for the last two games.
McCombe has been The Press man-of-the-match during both of those fixtures – a 2-1 triumph at Fleetwood being followed by last weekend’s 0-0 home draw with Cheltenham.
He is planning to carry on in the same vein although the ex-Port Vale promotion winner appreciates the competition for places that McGurk’s imminent return will provide.
“I am just pleased to be playing after my time at Mansfield and I am enjoying my football again,” McCombe admitted. “That was something I missed at Mansfield and the main reason I came to York was to try to get a regular place and, hopefully, I can stay in the team because I just want to be playing every week.
“There are a lot of good players here, though, so you know you have to keep performing week in, week out to stay in the team.”
Since McCombe was partnered at the heart of defence with Keith Lowe, City have conceded just one goal in three hours.
Added McCombe: “I’ve played against Keith a few times, so I knew he was a good player, but he’s a great lad off the pitch as well.”
The goalless draw with Cheltenham represented the first clean sheet McCombe has enjoyed in 14 matches – a run stretching back 11 months to last March and a 2-0 victory at Bootham Crescent for his old club Vale.
City have only managed three shut-outs on their travels this season – against bottom-two Torquay and Northampton, as well as at Morecambe.
No side in Sky Bet League Two, meanwhile, has conceded more goals on the road than City with 24 shipped in 16 fixtures.
Despite City having failed to net in four of the last five games, McCombe has seen enough of his new attacking team-mates to suggest the key to gaining more victories during the final third of term might lie with keeping goals out at the other end.
He added: “We should have got three points against Cheltenham but, overall, as a defender, you are always very happy with a clean sheet and we defended really well. If we keep a clean sheet, we know we can score goals.
“We haven’t scored as many as we should have done in recent weeks but we know we have the players to win games. The goals will come.”
McCombe also believes he can get his name on the scoresheet soon.
A McGurk goal at Wycombe remains the only occasion a centre-back has hit the target this season.
City boss Nigel Worthington has called for more goals from different areas of the pitch between now and the end of the campaign and, with McCombe (19) and Lowe (18) having netted 37 times at Football League level, it does not seem an unreasonable request.
Said McCombe: “I had a decent chance last Saturday but the ’keeper was right on top of me before I got to shoot really.”
McCombe has already been on the receiving end of a defeat against today’s hosts Plymouth when he was a member of the Mansfield team that lost 1-0 to John Sheridan’s men in August following a last-minute Neal Trotman goal.
Added the defender: “They’re not a bad side and their striker Reuben Reid is a good, physical player, who holds the ball up well, but we will be going there with the confidence that we can get three points.”