FREE health checks were being conducted at Bootham Crescent before York City’s Sky Bet League Two examination against Exeter.
Had they been made available at the final whistle, however, the queue for medical MOTs might have been longer following a display that initially set the pulses of City supporters racing before testing their blood pressure levels to the maximum.
Having waited more than six-and-a-half hours to witness a home goal, the Minstermen faithful celebrated two in less than ten first-half minutes on Saturday as John McCombe and Michael Coulson put their side in the ascendancy against the Grecians.
But, shortly after Coulson’s excellent strike, Scot Bennett reduced the deficit on 28 minutes and Exeter were the better side for the remainder of a game that saw Worthington’s team fade as an attacking force after the interval for a second successive weekend.
That placed intense pressure on the hosts’ back four but, with McCombe and central-defensive partner Keith Lowe once more to the fore, the Devon side could not muster an equaliser.
Earlier, City had enjoyed the different challenge presented by Paul Tisdale’s cultured side following a run of bruising and uncompromising contests at Bootham Crescent.
Exeter only committed their first foul on 26 minutes and, even then, the incident, which led to the hosts’ second goal, seemed more a case of Will Hayhurst winning a free-kick, rather than his alleged assailant conceding it.
City quickly got to grips with proceedings after John O’Flynn had kicked fresh air in front of Nick Pope’s goal when presented with an excellent chance to volley a Matthew Gill free-kick, chipped into the home penalty box in the first minute.
Russell Penn’s 25-yard shot bounced wide shortly afterwards and Lowe also headed into Artur Krysiak’s hands from a Reed cross.
With the visitors looking vulnerable to pace through the centre of their defence, Ryan Bowman also burst on to a Reed through ball on 12 minutes but the striker, now without a goal during ten-and-a-half hours of pitch time, lifted his edge-of-the-box effort over an advancing Krysiak only to see the ball bounce off the roof of the net.
Bowman went on to take an early shot from 25 yards that was saved by Krysiak after a poor kick from the former on-loan Minsterman.
The Polish net-minder was beaten, however, on 17 minutes after Coulson won a corner through the left channel following good combination play between Bowman and Hayhurst.
Reed delivered the resulting corner with his customary precision to the far post where towering centre-back McCombe headed in his third goal in as many matches.
City doubled their advantage on when Hayhurst swung in a left-wing delivery that found Bowman in a similar position to that occupied by McCombe moments before.
This time, the ex-Hereford forward opted to head back to Coulson, who showed immaculate control to collect the ball, turn nimbly and fire a powerful shot past Krysiak from 12 yards.
Within seconds, Jimmy Keohane’s deflected shot hit the roof of the David Longhurst Stand but his subsequent corner found the head of Jordan Moore-Taylor and Bennett stole in front of Pope to hook the ball into a vacated goal from four yards.
At the other end, Lowe nodded wide from another Reed corner to the far post before an entertaining half drew to a close. Following the interval, a weak 20-yard Reed effort failed to trouble Krysiak after referee Richard Clark had played advantage despite Craig Woodman’s attempts to halt Coulson in a headlock.
That 50th-minute shot would prove the home side’s last of any description, however, until Coulson drove wide from 25 yards deep into stoppage time.
Against a back five that has yet to concede a goal from open play during the five games they have been teamed together, however, Exeter still struggled to make their superior possession levels count.
Liam Sercombe tried his luck with two edge-of-the-box efforts – the first flashing narrowly over and the second being saved down to his left by Pope.
Irish striker O’Flynn then squandered the Grecians’ best chance of an equaliser when the ball fell to his feet eight yards from goal after Keohane’s low drive struck McCombe.
With only an exposed Pope to beat, though, the former Barnet forward shot wastefully against the on-loan ’keeper’s right-hand upright.
Keohane went on to volley wide from 25 yards following a headed Lowe clearance before Worthington decided to pack his midfield for the final 15 minutes, introducing Lewis Montrose and leaving fellow replacement Ryan Jarvis alone in attack.
Following that tactical switch, Pope still needed to react well to keep out O’Flynn’s deflected eight-yard shot as the City held on for an anxious three points.
The Nuffield Health practitioners had long since departed by then but City look in rude health now with a dozen fixtures to play – sitting seven points adrift of the play-off places and ten clear of the relegation zone.
York City 2 (McCombe 17; Coulson 26), Exeter City 1 (Bennett 28)
Nick Pope 7
Might have been more forceful for Exeter’s goal but helped his team secure all three points in the second half.
Lanre Oyebanjo 7
Reliable in defence and made his trademark forward surges when possible and prudent.
Keith Lowe 8
Always in the right position to head away and clear his lines, staying focused and disciplined until the final whistle.
John McCombe 8
STAR MAN – commanding in the air at both ends of the pitch and a resolute figure throughout.
Ben Davies 7
Solid in general and kept his concentration for the majority of the match against the threatening Sercombe.
Josh Carson 7
Plugged away but found it hard at times to provide attacking inspiration from the flanks.
Russell Penn 7
Penalised repeatedly for fouls but made his presence felt in the middle of the pitch.
Adam Reed 8
Involved in many of City’s most creative moments, both in general play and from set-piece situations.
Will Hayhurst 7
Gave his team the early impetus with several positive raids down the left wing.
Ryan Bowman 7
Lacking confidence in front of goal but made a typical leap to tee up Coulson’s goal.
Michael Coulson 7
Great turn and finish for his second goal of the season and showed graft and craft in equal measure.
Subs: Ryan Jarvis (for Hayhurst, 70), Lewis Montrose (for Bowman, 76), Tom Platt (for Reed, 89). Not used: David McGurk, Michael Ingham, Sander Puri, Chris Dickinson.
Artur Krysiak, Scot Bennett, Danny Coles, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Craig Woodman, Liam Sercombe, Matt Oakley, Matt Gill (Matt Grimes, 58), Arron Davies (Tom Nichols, 70), John O’Flynn, Jimmy Keohane (Eliot Richards, 78). Subs not used: Danny Butterfield, Jamie Reid, Sam Parkin, Christy Pym.
Star man: Sercombe – threatened when he ran with the ball.
Referee: Richard Clark (Amble).
Rating: 6/10 – puzzled many with several free-kick decisions.
Booked: Bennett 47, Carson 62, Nichols 88.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 3,212 (220 from Exeter).
Shots on target: City 5, Exeter 4.
Shots off target: City 5, Exeter 5.
Corners: City 7, Exeter 3.
Fouls conceded: City 14, Exeter 11.
Offsides: City 4, Exeter 2.