York City 2013/14 season review
Updated 12:01pm Wednesday 21st May 2014 in Sport
: On-loan keeper Nick Pope coming out to claim a high ball into the box was a familiar sight for York City fans
FORGET Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea - surely the biggest mistake of the 2013/14 football season was made by Cheltenham boss Mark Yates.
After all, how often can two players discarded by a League Two team have gone on to make such an impact at a rival club plying their trade at the same level.
Keith Lowe and Russell Penn were both deemed surplus to requirements by Yates midway through a season that would see the Robins go nowhere near emulating their play-off campaigns of the previous two years.
The experienced 28-year-old pair, meanwhile, who also played together for Yates at Kidderminster, would go on to help form the spine of a City side, along with equally influential recruits Nick Pope and John McCombe, that mounted an unexpected, top-seven push of their own during a remarkable final five months of the season.
Lowe and Pope arrived first in mid-November although the latter was swiftly recalled by Charlton due to injury and would not return for another two months.
In the meantime, Lowe's impact on a back-line that had shipped 38 goals in 20 games at an average of 1.9 per match was beginning to take shape.
During the subsequent 32 fixtures, in which Lowe played every minute, the side only conceded 17 times at an average of 0.53 goals per match.
A club record of 22 clean sheets in a regular season was also set despite only three shut-outs having been mustered prior to Lowe's transfer to Bootham Crescent.
As for Penn, his signing in January brought drive and purpose to a midfield that had previously struggled to impose itself on matches.
Due to Dan Parslow and David McGurk's injuries, he also quickly assumed the captain's armband and led the team by example with previous skipper Chris Smith's ability to inspire the side having seemingly waned earlier in the campaign.
On his return, meanwhile, Pope used his height and mature judgement to stem the flow of a series of goals conceded from crosses into the penalty box, while McCombe, after becoming a misfit at Mansfield, slotted in brilliantly alongside Lowe.
The quartet all played key roles during an amazing transformation for a club that had bid a welcome farewell to a 2013 that drew to a close with the longest run of games without a win at the end of a calendar year.
Equally as concerning, from the 18 League Two clubs that had plied their trade in the division during that year, only Conference-bound Torquay had picked up fewer points.
City kicked off 2014 only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and many feared another dogfight for Football League survival.
Bootham Crescent chief Nigel Worthington was, typically, calmer than most but eager to get to January and apply some carefully-considered surgery to his squad.
He will, nevertheless have been surprised himself by the subsequent results.
On his hopes for the new year, Worthington was targeting the same steady improvement he had set as the club's goal back in August and added: "If you can string four or five wins together, you can be sitting tenth or 12th and that's possible if everybody stays focussed."
As it happened, just two defeats in 23 matches saw the Minstermen show form that would have won the title by six points had the campaign kicked off on January 1.
Another place in the history books was also secured when the team finished off the regular season unbeaten in 17 matches - the first 16 of which saw only three goals conceded and, remarkably, not a single one let in from open play.
It was a season of evolution, as much as of revolution despite the unsentimental displacing of the likes of Ingham and Smith from the first XI.
From the team fielded by Worthington for the opening day of the campaign, Smith, Craig Clay, Ashley Chambers and Richard Cresswell had all left the club by the end of January.
Others like Ingham, McGurk, Tom Platt, Sander Puri and Ryan Jarvis, meanwhile, all played vastly-reduced roles during the second-half of the campaign.
Only full-backs Ben Davies and Lanre Oyebanjo would prove mainstays for a full nine months and even the latter came under heavy pressure for his place following the loan arrival of Luke O’Neill.
Both could now move on with Davies back at parent club Preston and Oyebanjo believed to be keen on a move south.
With Pope also gone and all-action winger Josh Carson expected to be sidelined by Christmas, expectation might still need to be tempered and patience exercised as Worthington looks for more astute additions this summer.
A need for greater firepower will have to be addressed too with City sustaining a promotion push despite averaging less than a goal a game during the last 14 matches.
There will need to be less of an onus on leading marksman Wes Fletcher, particularly if Jarvis is to remain on the periphery and players from other departments of the team will also be required to chip in with more.
Central-midfielders Penn, Adam Reed, Lewis Montrose, Elliott Whitehouse, Platt and Clay only managed one goal in 132 collective appearances.
That effort was also one that inadvertently bounced over the line off Montrose's heel after a cross was dropped by Portsmouth keeper John Sullivan.
Neither full back got on the scoresheet either despite Oyebanjo (46) and Davies (47) racking up 93 appearances between them.
Worthington is unlikely to overlook such statistics in an otherwise proud season that saw York City re-establish themselves as a credible Football League outfit.
York City's 2013/14 season in statistics
• City used 35 players this season, compared to 36 in 2012/13.
• Three League doubles were achieved - Northampton Town, Portsmouth and Torquay United - and no team defeated City twice.
• The average League attendance of 3,773 was down from 3,887 the previous campaign.
• A tally of 41 goals conceded has been only bettered three times in the Football League by City, in 1973/74 (38), 1983/84 (39) and 1993/94 (40).
• A total of 22 clean sheets in the League is a new club record.
Compiled by David Batters
York City 2013/14 squad ratings
Looked a little tentative at times when given chances in the team. Has the ingredients to be a good defender. Might just need to work on mental strength and focus, especially at the start of games. Appearances: 4 (2), Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
Brought muscle and endeavour to City’s frontline following his March move. Carried a greater attacking threat than his goal record suggested. Needs to use his aerial strength closer to the opposition’s goal though. Appearances: 7 (3), Goals: 1. Rating: 7/10
Beset by injury and suspension problems early on but still looked dangerous. Form then deserted him when he got a prolonged run in the side. Still contributed to the cause, though, as evidenced by his position at the top of the assists table. Appearances: 26 (17), Goals: 8. Rating: 7/10
Capable of providing some truly out-of-the-ordinary moments as Scunthorpe will testify. Other matches passed him by a little. Still got time to add consistency to his game and become more robust. Appearances: 17 (4), Goals: 4. Rating: 7/10
Never gave anything less than 100 per cent. A genuine example of how wingers can be involved in games for 90 minutes. Prodigious worker with a penchant for spectacular goals. Appearances: 30 (2), Goals: 5. Rating: 8/10
Youth-team striker given a couple of substitute outings during the first month of the campaign. Found it hard to make an impression in both matches. Was not helped by the fact the team were struggling. Appearances: 0 (2), Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
A game changer on his day but also prone to struggling on others. Too many under-par performances saw him moved on mid-season. His Wembley heroics should never be forgotten though. Appearances: 10 (8), Goals 0. Rating: 5/10
Started encouragingly following his summer move from Chesterfield. Capable of telling tackles and passing the ball sensibly. Lost his way a little in early autumn though and discarded in January. Appearances: 8 (2), Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
Enjoyed a remarkable renaissance after being left out of the squad entirely for 14 consecutive matches. A lively substitute appearance against Rochdale proved a pivotal moment in his career and he went on to score some vital long-range goals during the run-in. Perhaps more dangerous on the wing but adapted well to play as an orthodox centre-forward following Wes Fletcher’s injury. Appearances: 24 (12), Goals: 7. Rating: 8/10
Injuries meant he could not recapture past glories on his third coming at Bootham Crescent. Showed strength to set up Ryan Jarvis for an opening day win over Northampton but that proved his season’s high point. Subsequently announced his retirement in November. Appearances: 3 (5), Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
Emerged as one of the team’s most reliable performers at left-back after understandably taking time to acclimatise to League Two football. Had just three senior appearances under his belt prior to a season-long loan move from Preston but his defensive resilience grew by the match. A bit reserved in his forages forward but also has the capacity to improve in that department. Appearances: 47, Goals 0. Rating: 8/10
Impossible to cast judgement on a first-year pro given just two run-outs as an 89th and 90th-minute substitute. Only made the bench once during the club’s last 14 games. Scored just once during 11 loan appearances at Whitby and Northallerton. Appearances: 0 (2), Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
Gave his team a real cutting edge when fit. An awful challenge at Portsmouth ended his season prematurely. Showed strength with his back to goal, an ability to run beyond defences and a real desire to get in the six-yard box and score. Appearances: 26 (10), Goals: 13. Rating: 8/10
A City career that had its share of peaks and troughs came to an end in January. Potentially dangerous when travelling forward but prone to too many off days defensively and needed to be stronger in the tackle. Could not dislodge Davies and moved on to Grimsby, who released him last week. Appearances: 4 (1), Goals: 0. Rating: 5/10
Provided a good option with his dead-ball deliveries following a February loan move from Preston. Could have imposed himself more in open play on occasions. Also only managed one heavily deflected goal during his 20 outings. Appearances: 16 (4), Goals: 1. Rating: 7/10
Sidelined by injury in pre-season and then lost his place to the excellent Nick Pope during January. Not as commanding as in the past with balls into his penalty box. His fine service to the club might still count for something, however, as Nigel Worthington decides whether to reinstate him between the sticks next season. Appearances: 22, Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
Started the campaign as the team’s attacking talisman and was the only name on City’s scoresheet for the first seven matches. Had a succession of niggling injuries mid-season and could not break back into the team. Underused, a little surprisingly, when the team were struggling for goals during the run-in to the end of the season. Appearances: 25 (15), Goals: 9. Rating: 7/10
Aside from his kicking, the on-loan Blackpool shot-stopper did reasonably well when called upon after Ingham was declared unfit during the warm-up ahead of the FA Cup replay against Bristol Rovers. Worthington’s subsequent decision to draft Pope in, though, proved an inspired choice. As a consequence, a disappointed Kettings chose to return to his parent club and missed out on a second chance when Pope was recalled by Charlton two games later. Appearances: 1, Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
Surely up there as one of the truest competitors to ever pull on a City shirt. His impact on the club following a November arrival from Cheltenham is there for all to see with an analysis of the goals-conceded record thereafter. Hard to recall one costly mistake in that time and any rare errors of judgement were compensated for by a willingness and ability to recover quickly. Appearances: 32, Goals 1. Rating: 9/10
The efforts of all the three other keepers used by City in 2013/14 will perhaps unfairly be judged alongside the merits of Pope. On-loan Wolves shot-stopper McCarey did not dominate in the air in the same manner as the Charlton man. Also made a couple of errors. Appearances: 5, Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
Difficult to see why Mansfield were willing to offload the two-time promotion winner at Port Vale and Hereford. His power and risk-free approach to defending made him a strong adversary for all opponents. Forged an excellent partnership with Lowe following his January arrival and was also a big goal threat at set-pieces. Appearances: 20 (1), Goals: 3. Rating: 9/10.
Lost his place for the final three months of the season after injury gave McCombe his chance in the team. Was as dependable and reliable as ever, though, when called upon and his reading of games was immaculate. A real shame he could not get a farewell appearance under his belt after announcing his decision to retire from the full-time game due to back trouble. Appearances: 22 (3), Goals: 1. Rating: 8/10
Has all the attributes to be a very strong midfielder at League Two level with a long, loping stride, powerful shot, good range of passes and bite in the tackle. Could not nail down a regular starting place, though, as was unable to impose himself and influence some games. Looked a little ponderous at times and only managed one goal – when the ball was dropped on his heel by Portsmouth keeper John Sullivan. Appearances: 28 (9), Goals 1. Rating: 6/10
Showed good close control when given a second-half cameo in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Looked a skilful talent and keen to express himself on the ball. The diminutive midfielder will now be hoping for more opportunities next term. Appearances: 0 (1), Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
Classy right-back who created several goals from his excellent crosses into the box. Arrived on loan from Burnley and very composed in possession. Not afraid to try his luck from distance either, as he displayed in spectacular fashion at Chesterfield. Appearances: 16, Goals: 1. Rating: 8/10
Came under strong pressure for his starting place when O’Neill was brought to the club. Moved into a right-wing role for a spell but did not look too comfortable there. Finished the season strongly after being restored to his more familiar position, defending with determination and driving forward with intent. Appearances: 46, Goals: 0. Rating: 8/10
His season was cruelly curtailed by cruciate ligament damage in November. Prior to that setback, grafted well and wore his heart on his sleeve. Will be working hard to fight his way back into the team next term. Appearances: 16, Goals 0. Rating: 6/10
Cheltenham’s loss was City’s gain for a second time when the combative midfielder followed Lowe out of Whaddon Road to Bootham Crescent in January. Quickly made captain, he led the team by example and never shirked a tackle. Always looked to take the game to the opposition, although rarely threatened goal. Appearances: 23, Goals: 0. Rating: 8/10.
Could not build on his encouraging end to the previous season. Difficult to recall too many highlights in his 23 appearances that included no goals or assists. Might be better suited to a 4-3-3 formation as he found it hard to get involved at times when used in a two-man midfield. Appearances: 14 (9), Goals: 0. Rating: 5/10
Showed excellent judgement and confidence to claim countless high balls into his penalty box during two loan spells from Charlton. Remained undeterred by any rare mistakes and also displayed sharp reflexes when needed. His kicking and coordination might need a little work but has all the makings of a top keeper. Appearances: 24, Goals 0. Rating: 9/10
Hopes were high when the full Estonian international joined City in the summer. He struggled with the pace and intensity of League Two football though. Fell completely out of favour and restricted to just two brief substitute outings from November onwards. Appearances: 5 (6), Goals: 0. Rating: 5/10.
ADAM REED Battled hard alongside Penn in midfield. Playing in a deeper role, he did not carry the same goal threat he had during his first spell at the end of the previous season. When briefly moved to the left wing, he did offer a reminder of his ability to make well-timed runs into the penalty box. Appearances: 19 (2), Goals: 0. Rating: 7/10
Finished 2012/13 as League Two’s Player of the Month and the club’s talismanic skipper. By September, however, he had lost his place in the team and subsequently left the club at the end of the January transfer window. Could not inspire the side in the same manner he had done in the past and upset the manager when he took part in a post-match warm down after declaring himself injured for the game. Appearances: 12 (1), Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
Leicester loan signing who looked a little shell-shocked when thrown into the City back four. Was sent back to the Championship club early when McGurk recovered from injury. Needed to use his physique to greater effect. Appearances: 2 (1), Goals: 0. Rating: 5/10
Busy and energetic youngster who willingly tore around the pitch. Lacked a little composure in front of goal, although capable of getting into scoring positions. Sent back to parent club Sheffield United at the turn of the year with his performance levels dipping as the team struggled for results. Appearances: 18, Goals: 0. Rating: 6/10
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