YORK City’s 2012 Wembley hero Matty Blair returned to Bootham Crescent to give Fleetwood a first-leg lead in the Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-finals.
Blair tapped in on 50 minutes to earn the visitors a 1-0 victory but a spirited response from Nigel Worthington’s men afterwards suggested the tie is far from over ahead of Friday night’s return leg.
Spurred on by rousing support, Ryan Bowman, Michael Coulson, Calvin Andrew, Will Hayhurst and John McCombe all had chances to snatch an equaliser but the Minstermen were also relieved to see Iain Hume squander a late chance to double the visitors’ advantage.
Both sides made no changes to the starting line-ups and substitutes for Saturday’s postponed fixture.
That meant Fleetwood kicked off with former Minstermen Blair and Charlie Taylor in their first XI, while fellow Bootham Crescent old boy Jon Parkin was on the bench.
A cagey opening half saw chances at a premium for both teams with City defending in typically uncompromising fashion.
Calvin Andrew had the first shot of the evening on the quarter-hour mark but his 15-yard effort, following good work by Ryan Brobbel, was charged down by Cod Army centre-back Nathan Pond.
At the other end, Josh Morris’ edge-of-the-box effort deflected wide off a busy Russell Penn and Antoni Sarcevic’s well-struck 30-yard drive was pushed behind for a corner by Nick Pope.
Lanre Oyebanjo then almost knocked a cameraman off his gantry with a wayward long-distance, left-footed attempt for the hosts.
On 35 minutes, a David Ball drive into the six-yard box struck an unwitting John McCombe but the ball finished safely in Pope’s arms and Blair went on to drag a weak, left-footed chance wide of the City keeper’s near post after cutting in from the flank.
City started the second half in positive fashion with Andrew winning a towering header and Coulson retrieving the ball from just inside the left touchline before cutting inside and firing narrowly across the face of goal from 20 yards.
But the hosts fell behind after a swift visitors’ counter attack.
Ball ran dangerously at a back-peddling Ben Davies through the right channel and, after beating the City left back, his low cross found its way to Blair at the far post, who tapped in from a yard but, despite netting in front of a jubilant if sparse away end, the winger refused to celebrate his goal.
Moments later, a clever pass from Hume sent Ball clear on goal but he prodded wide as Pope rushed out of goal to beat him.
Hume also went on to release a rampaging Blair on the overlap just past the hour but he shot wide of Pope’s near post.
But, with Oyebanjo marauding down the right and a vociferous David Longhurst Stand bellowing out their support, City began to apply pressure at the other end of the pitch.
First, Coulson’s excellent, right-wing cross was turned towards goal by substitute Bowman but his eight-yard effort lacked the power to extend Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell.
After an Oyebanjo raid down the right, Adam Reed’s shot was blocked and Coulson’s 15-yard attempt drifted wide of Maxwell’s right-hand post.
Andrew also thumped an edge-of-the-box drive wide on 69 minutes and Coulson flicked a near-post chance over from Hayhurst’s corner.
With the game opening up, Pope saved low to his right from Morris’ 20-yard volley and Hayhurst curled a free kick over for the Minstermen.
Hume, though, squandered an excellent opportunity to extend the visitors’s first-leg advantage on 83 minutes, collecting Morris’ through ball, the on-loan Preston striker bore down on the home goal but, with Oyebanjo breathing down his neck, could only push his shot wide of Pope’s right-hand upright.
McCombe went on to slice over from the edge of the penalty box in stoppage time before City’s first defeat in 18 matches was confirmed.