YORK City manager Nigel Worthington has told his players to use their “imagination” to end a run of four home games without a goal.
The Minstermen drew 0-0 for the third time in four Bootham Crescent outings against play-off hopefuls Southend at the weekend, following previous stalemates with Cheltenham and Bristol Rovers.
Chesterfield have also won 2-0 in North Yorkshire during a run of more than six hours without a goal on their own soil for Worthington’s team.
The City boss is pleased, however, with every other aspect of his side’s game in front of their own fans, saying: “Saturday’s game was a little bit like the game against Cheltenham in that we were playing against a decent team who have been in the league for a long time and know what it’s all about.
“Southend have been near the top of the table for most of the season so they are no mugs and they got themselves organised against us and made things difficult. The only thing that is missing at home is goals because I can’t fault the lads at all otherwise.
“Some of the play at times was very good against Southend with plenty of commitment and a work ethic of the highest quality. We also got another clean sheet and have just got to keep using our imagination in that final third to create and score goals.
“We just can’t seem to get that rub of the green at home to get us over the line, but at least the supporters are getting honest shifts from the players. We had three or four half-chances and, on another day, we would have stuck one in the back of the net.”
City missed out on a chance to close the gap to Southend, currently occupying Sky Bet League Two’s final play-off position, to six points.
Worthington believes the team should have a greater reward for their efforts this season but insists the first priority remains securing the club’s Football League status during the coming weeks.
“We are having a pretty solid season and the additions we have made since January have been very, very good,” the Minstermen chief reasoned. “But the one thing you might point a finger at is we have had too many draws.
“If we had two or three more wins from those matches, then I think that would provide a truer reflection of the team’s performances. But we know our target is 50 or 51 points and the sooner we get them the better. “A lot of the teams near the bottom beat sides above them at the weekend, but we must focus on our own jobs and not get distracted by anything else.”
The Minstermen also kept their third consecutive clean sheet on Saturday with Worthington full of praise for goalkeeper Nick Pope and a back four of Lanre Oyebanjo, Keith Lowe, John McCombe and Ben Davies.
He added: “The ’keeper and the back four all did well.
“The two centre-halves have gelled really well together and the full backs had very good, solid games and, if they continue to do that, they will keep improving.”
City are hoping that top scorer Wes Fletcher will recover from the groin problem that ruled him out of Saturday’s game in time to face Exeter at Bootham Crescent this weekend.
“He wasn’t right for the Southend game,” Worthington revealed.
“I was never going to push him because I would rather he missed one game than try to play him and then lose him for a month maybe.”
In Fletcher’s absence, Michael Coulson was preferred in attack to fit-again nine-goal marksman Ryan Jarvis, who later made his first appearance in five matches following an ankle injury. “Michael did well,” Worthington said of Coulson. “He got hold of the ball, backed into their defenders and caused them a few problems.
“Having a squad is all about people doing a job when they are called upon and Michael has been doing a good job when he starts or comes off the bench. It’s good to have Ryan Jarvis back as well.
“He’s short of match fitness, but the more players we have fit the better during the run-in.”
First-year professional Chris Dickinson was also given his home debut as a 90th-minute substitute for the second successive match.
On the teenage striker’s progress, Worthington said: “He still has a lot of work to do but he’s a very honest young man who will give you what he’s got, which sums up our squad.”
The City boss added that he is hoping League One promotion hopefuls Preston will allow him to keep on-loan winger Will Hayhurst beyond Saturday’s home meeting with Exeter, admitting: “I would like to keep the lad and he would like to stay, so it’s down to Preston to see if we can extend his loan.
“He gives us another option and is another body in those wide areas, where players have to put in a real shift.”
• Former City captain Chris Smith has signed for Conference Premier side Halifax Town.