ONLY one side in York City’s 92- year history has now gone more games undefeated than Nigel Worthington’s 2013/14 play-off qualifiers.
Michael Coulson’s emphatically struck 77th-minute free-kick secured another 1-0 victory – this time over Newport – to clinch a Sky Bet League Two top-seven spot with one match still left to play in the regular season.
The win also extended the Minstermen’s unbeaten run to 16 matches – a sequence that can only be bettered by the team that gained promotion to English football’s second tier 40 years ago.
That outfit, boasting the likes of Graeme Crawford, Chris Topping and Chris Jones, went 20 games without losing in all competitions on their way to plying their trade against the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Following Saturday’s win, Worthington’s men now have that club record tantalisingly in their sights with the mouth-watering prospect of extending the season by four more games, culminating in a fifth trip in as many years to Wembley.
Matching or bettering such landmarks is clearly of secondary importance, however, to giving the club the best possible opportunity of promotion and City’s wily manager will be giving careful thought on the make-up of his side for what now amounts to a virtual dead rubber for the visitors at title hopefuls Scunthorpe.
Avoiding the need for a result against an Iron side unbeaten in 28 games prior to their shock 2-0 defeat at Exeter on Saturday was the order for the day ahead of the Minstermen’s meeting with 2012 FA Trophy final opponents Newport.
For a team that has risen to pretty much every challenge set by their manager since the turn of the year, it was no surprise, therefore, that the hosts took control of their own destiny.
As it happened, Accrington Stanley, who owed the Minstermen a good turn following the stoppagetime equalisers that threatened to derail Worthington side’s efforts at crucial stages during the last two campaigns, won at Oxford to end the hopes of the only side capable of catching the Bootham Crescent club in the chase for play-off places.
But, following a tentative opening 20 minutes, City established a stranglehold on proceedings against their Welsh visitors and events at the Kassam Stadium always looked like being inconsequential.
Encouragingly, given a record of six goals from their last eight games, the Minstermen also created enough opportunities to win by a bigger margin.
Adam Reed ghosting into the kind of scoring positions that saw him contribute vital goals during last season’s run-in was certainly a positive, even if he failed to convert any of a hat-trick of excellent chances.
Freeing Reed from the midfield battleground, as an alternative to Will Hayhurst on the left flank, might just give City another welcome attacking dimension to their play during the continued absence of Josh Carson and Wes Fletcher for the remainder of the season.
The guile of Coulson and strength of Calvin Andrew also teed up openings for team-mates after Newport had made the early running.
Adam Chapman volleyed over for the visitors from 20 yards just three minutes into the match and Lee Minshull’s header following Ryan Jackson’s long throw was pushed on to his left-hand post by Nick Pope.
Captain Max Porter also went close from distance and Jackson dragged an edge-of-the-box effort wide before Reed’s weak 20-yard shot proved the Minstermen’s first goal attempt on 24 minutes.
On the half-hour mark, Lewis Montrose looked fortunate to only receive a yellow card after he launched both feet off the floor in a reckless lunge at Minshull right in front of the dugouts but City lifted their performance thereafter.
Reed was somehow denied by a remarkable reflex save from Ian McLoughlin on 37 minutes when he stabbed out a leg to meet Coulson’s right-wing cross three yards from goal.
Moments later, Coulson then lifted the ball over the head of centre-back Kevin Feely in Paul Gascoigne fashion to create a shooting chance but his subsequent lob bounced off the top of a beaten McLoughlin’s crossbar.
Reed also had a second opportunity in the six-yard box but his attempt lacked the power and direction to beat Newport’s on-loan MK Dons keeper.
After the break, City continued to press with Ryan Brobbel sending a low cross in from the right that saw Andrew, with his back to goal, set up Coulson but he missed the target from eight yards.
An Andrew header went on to send Reed clear on 54 minutes but, after the ball bounced invitingly up off the turf, the former Sunderland midfielder’s volley was smothered by McLoughlin.
At the other end, Pope dealt with a 15-yard Porter shot and tipped over Robbie Willmott’s curling free-kick before the home side made the breakthrough.
Substitute Ryan Bowman was bundled off the ball following Ben Davies’ accurate forward pass and Coulson curled the resultant free-kick into McLoughlin’s bottom left-hand corner from 25 yards.
A minute later, Hayhurst cleared the crossbar from eight yards after a right-wing raid by Coulson.
Michael Flynn and Chris Zebroski went on to miss the target with hopeful efforts for the Exiles but a City side who have only shipped the one injury-time goal against Accrington in their last 11 matches never looked in real danger of being breached.
York City 1 (Coulson 77), Newport 0
Nick Pope: made two fine saves and adapted well to cope with attempts to unsettle him at long throws. 8
Lanre Oyebanjo: disciplined defensively and kept things simple throughout. 7
Keith Lowe: cleared his lines in no-nonsense fashion and strong on the ground and in the air. 7
John McCombe: proved too powerful for Newport’s strikeforce with another muscular display. 8
Ben Davies: becoming a model of consistency and made countless cleanly timed tackles and interceptions. 8
Ryan Brobbel: relatively quiet prior to his withdrawal and found it difficult to penetrate down the right. 6
Russell Penn: helped City hold their own against narrow three-man midfield with a gutsy performance. 7
Lewis Montrose: gave ref a decision to make with inadvisable challenge that could have cost his team. 6
Adam Reed: worked his way into great goalscoring positions and just needed a little more composure. 8
Calvin Andrew: showed awareness to tee up chances for team-mates and dominated in the air. 8
Michael Coulson: STAR MAN – industrious and imaginative, finished with confidence from the free-kick. 8
Subs: Ryan Bowman – committed (for Brobbel, 65), Will Hayhurst (for Montrose, 71). Not used: Ingham, Jarvis, Allan, McGurk, Platt.
Ian McLoughlin, Ryan Jackson, Kevin Feely, Andrew Hughes, Andy Sandell (Aaron O’Connor, 44), Adam Chapman (Michael Flynn, 85), Max Porter, Lee Minshull, Christian Jolley (Shaun Jeffers, 71), Chris Zebroski, Robbie Willmott.
Subs not used: Lenny Pidgeley, Aaron Holloway, Rene Howe.
Star man: McLoughlin – made a string of fine saves.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire). Rating: 7/10 – improved as the game went on.
Booked: Montrose 30.
Attendance: 4,541 (222 from Newport).
Shots on target: City 8, Newport 3.
Shots off target: City 2, Newport 7.
Corners: City 3, Newport 2.
Fouls conceded: City 8, Newport 16.
Offsides: City 3, Newport 2.