HAVING tossed away two points against the club that refused to die, York City must now resurrect their play-off hopes over the Easter holiday.
Accrington Stanley take their club motto very seriously with Shay McCartan’s 91st-minute equaliser snatching the Lancashire side a stoppage-time point for the second successive season at Bootham Crescent.
Cancelling out Michael Coulson’s penalty just past the hour, McCartan’s header means City now travel to play-off rivals Oxford in eighth place on Good Friday rather than the sixth spot they had occupied prior to the fourth official raising his board.
The last-gasp leveller also denied Nick Pope and his determined defence the share of a 29-year-old club record for consecutive clean sheets with McCartan’s goal the first City have conceded in 13 hours of football.
Teenage substitute McCartan’s effort was the reward for a well organised Stanley display that saw the visitors restrict their opponents to opportunities from set-pieces for long periods.
Likewise, the Minstermen also battled resolutely to largely limit the visitors to dead-ball chances and hopeful long-range attempts with genuine clear-cut openings scarce at both ends of the pitch.
Coulson headed the afternoon’s first effort straight into the hands of Stanley shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli after seven minutes from Will Hayhurst’s free-kick.
City keeper Pope was not stretched either by a 20-yard Luke Joyce volley, while Piero Mingoia and Kayode Odejayi missed the target from distance.
John McCombe came closest to claiming a first-half goal with Bettinelli smothering at his feet when the ball dropped to him in the six-yard box following a Hayhurst corner and Ryan Brobbel then drove over from the edge of the area.
The towering City centre-back also headed wide after Adam Reed’s left-wing free-kick to the far post, while full-debutant Calvin Andrew’s curling shot was deflected off target on the stroke of half-time.
After the break, Nicky Hunt made an excellent recovery tackle to block a goalbound Coulson strike following Brobbel’s through ball before Reed and Russell Penn both failed to hit the target from 20 yards.
The Minstermen forged in front, however, after 61 minutes when Odejayi was adjudged to have handled deliberately under pressure from McCombe.
Despite starting the season behind the likes of Richard Cresswell, Ryan Jarvis, Wes Fletcher and Ryan Bowman in the pecking order for spot-kick duty, Coulson confidently converted his first penalty since hitting the bar in a Capital One Cup shoot-out defeat to Doncaster on his debut.
The former Barnsley and Scarborough striker fired firmly into Bettinelli’s bottom right-hand corner to give his side the lead.
Typically, though, Accrington responded gamely with Kai Naismith curling over from a 68th-minute free-kick and Odejayi heading too high following Hunt’s right-wing cross.
On one of the rare occasions that City managed to carve open the visitors’ defence, a stretching Andrew then failed to get his boot to Hayhurst’s low cross into the six-yard box following Reed’s forward pass.
Reed went on to flash another shot across the face of goal after receiving a short corner back from Coulson but it was a Stanley flag kick that provided the match’s defining moment.
After Brobbel hoofed Lee Molyneux’s initial poorly-taken corner out of the ground, the on-loan Crewe winger’s second delivery sailed over Pope and found McCartan who headed in from three inches.
It was a bitter blow for the Minstermen, who also saw Pope save from Naismith seconds from the end and have now only scored more than once in one of their last eight fixtures.
York City 1 (Coulson pen 61), Accrington Stanley 1 (McCartan 90+1)
Pope 7 – claimed most balls into his box but caught out by the unusual flight of Molyneux’s corner.
Oyebanjo 7 – rarely seen in attacking action again but stayed strong defensively.
Lowe 7 – cleared his lines in no-nonsense fashion and read the game well throughout.
McCombe 8 – STAR MAN: matched the muscular Odejayi physically and was a tower of strength.
Davies 7 – slotted back in without fuss and never troubled down his flank.
Brobbel 7 – quiet for spells but always looked capable of providing a moment of magic.
Penn 7 – scrapped and competed for midfield supremacy with his heart on his sleeve.
Reed 7 – put everything into his game with little reward and looked more of a goal threat than in recent times.
Hayhurst 7 – created most of City’s best opening from dead balls and in open play.
Andrew 7 – won the majority of his headers, particularly early on, before tiring a little towards the end.
Coulson 7 – displayed a cool nerve to convert an important penalty and kept plugging away against a resolute back four.
Subs: Ryan Bowman (for Hayhurst, 82).
Subs not used: Tom Platt, David McGurk, Michael Ingham, Ryan Jarvis, Lewis Montrose, Tom Allan.
Accrington: Marcus Bettinelli, Nicky Hunt, Rob Atkinson, Tom Aldred, Luke Joyce, Adam Buxton (Kai Naismith, 66), Piero Mingoia, Peter Murphy (Lee Molyneux, 84), Michael Liddle, Kayode Odejayi, James Gray (Shay McCartan, 73). Subs not used: Danny Webber, Will Hatfield, Josh Windass, George Bowerman.
Accrington star man: Aldred – strong and determined in defence.
Booked: Atkinson 59, Gray 71.
Attendance: 3,855 (277 from Accrington).
Referee: Scbott Duncan (Newcastle) rating: 7/10 – decisive and made very few mistakes
Shots on target: City 3, Accrington 4.
Shots off target: City 7, Accrington 4.
Corners: City 7, Accrington 7.
Fouls conceded: City 11, Accrington 15.
Offsides: City 4, Accrington 1.