BAD things come in threes – or so the superstition goes.
It is doubtful York City boss Nigel Worthington pays much attention to omens but his team have now recorded a hat-trick no fan of the Bootham Crescent club desired to see.
For the third successive game, the Minstermen were crippled by a late blow as Marc Richards drove a free-kick from the edge of the box into the net to grab a point for Northampton Town.
Anthony Straker and Jake Hyde will be arguing for weeks about who gave City the lead in the 67th minute. The dubious goals committee will need to get involved.
The former’s corner swerved to the near post and completely befuddled Northampton custodian Matt Duke. Hyde nipped in and acted like he may have got a touch as it careered into the net off the Cobblers keeper’s shin.
The striker took the congratulations from his team-mates but the goal was credited to Straker. Good luck sorting that one out.
In any event, it had looked like giving York their first three point haul but, once again, one would not be enough.
Now they go into tomorrow night’s home match with Cambridge United skittish that misery will befall them yet again.
After Tranmere’s goal in the 94th minute robbed City a week ago, and Doncaster netted in stoppage time in the League Cup in midweek, you would have thought maintaining concentration and discipline would have been key in the players’ minds as the clock ran down.
But, even though John-Joe O’Toole bought the free-kick just outside the area that would bring Northampton’s leveller, there had been signs leading up to the equaliser that nerves were starting to jangle.
Possession was given away cheaply, balls booted back to the opposition, players retreating ever deeper. If you give teams enough space, they will eventually make you pay.
What makes it all the more irritating is that, as they had been in both of their other games this term, York were the better side overall.
Lindon Meikle and Straker were aggressive from the wings, Russell Penn scurried around the park like a one-man tackling machine and Michael Coulson was a continual threat moving from centre-forward into wide positions.
Former Barnet frontman Hyde solved City’s worries up front, recovering from a calf injury to help lead the line with Ryan Jarvis out with ankle ligament damage.
Prenton Park goalscorer Keith Lowe was the only other change in the line-up, linking up again with John McCombe in the heart of the York defence as Dave Winfield dropped back onto the bench.
The visitors could have taken the lead as early as the third minute when Ivan Toney ran on to a ball in plenty of space only to drag wide from 20 yards.
That was a mere speculative effort compared to the chance Meikle had almost immediately afterwards.
Coulson’s ball was perfectly measured and, after shrugging off the challenge of Evan Horwood, he marched into the box only to shoot straight at Duke – the shot at a nice height for the keeper to parry away.
Coulson subsequently had his own shot saved from eight yards and Hyde scuffed a decent opportunity from a Marvin McCoy long throw as City dominated the opening quarter of an hour.
But the Minstermen were gradually pushed back – Jason Mooney getting down quickly to gather Darren Carter’s low shot and McCoy having to be brave to clear off the line from Toney’s swerving ball on the half hour mark.
The Cobblers fashioned a great chance eight minutes after the restart when Harwood’s cross was pin-point for Richards.
The forward got a great connection on it but Lowe managed to get the slightest nick and deflect it behind for a corner.
From there on, it was a one way show and it seemed like York could be the only winners. They pressed, hassled and, in the case of Straker and Coulson in particular, began to really turn the screw.
Meikle managed to spurn another great opportunity, spooning over the bar from the centre of the box after Straker caused carnage with a weaving run into the area.
York soon got the rewards for their dominance, though, and it was the duo of Straker and Hyde who profited. Tom Platt drove to the by-line and his cross was met by Coulson, who couldn’t quite get his shot on target.
Form the subsequent corner, Straker delivered, Hyde got in front of Duke to try to meet it and the ball somehow found its way into the net.
York continued to play with purpose and freedom and they could have doubled their lead with nine minutes remaining as substitute Wes Fletcher found the wrong side of the far post from Coulson’s cross.
City would rue that profligacy as the home side started to drift further backwards. As fourth official Gary Beswick prepared to hold up his stoppage time board, O’Toole conned a free-kick on the edge of the box from Russell Penn.
The York skipper didn’t look like he had made contact but referee Darren Handley had seen enough. He blew for the set-piece and Richards did the rest - leaving City holding their heads in their hands once again.
York City 1 (Straker 67), Northampton Town 1 (Richards 90)
Jason Mooney: Once again had little to do but pick the ball out of the net. 6
Marvin McCoy: Long throw is rapidly becoming a potent weapon. 6
Keith Lowe: Slotted straight back in following midweek rest. 7
John McCombe: Assured and confident. You would expect nothing less. 7
Femi Ilesanmi: Links up well with Straker and assured in defence. 6
Lindon Meikle: Looks threatening on the occasions he takes a man on. Missed two glorious chances. 6
Russell Penn: STAR MAN – No ball he won’t chase down, no tackle he won’t make. A terrier. 8
Tom Platt: Not able to be the imposing presence of the first two games. 6
Anthony Straker: Continues to cause opposition full-backs problems with rangy runs. 7
Jake Hyde: Unrealistic to expect too much on debut from a man needing match fitness. 6
Michael Coulson: Cut Northampton open with some wonderful deliveries. Needs more shots on goal. 7
Subs: Wes Fletcher (for Hyde, 70) 6 – positive return. Not used: Daniel Parslow, Luke Summerfield, Lewis Montrose, Dave Winfield, Ben Hirst, Michael Ingham.
Matt Duke, Daniel Alfei, Darren Carter (Ian Morris, 61), Zander Diamond, Evan Horwood (Kaid Mohamed, 62), Gregor Robertson, Ricky Ravenhill (Lawson D’Ath, 73), John-Joe O’Toole, Lee Collins, Marc Richards, Ivan Toney. Subs not used: Emile Sinclair, Ben Tozer, David Mayo, Jordan Archer.
Star man: Marc Richards – wonderful free-kick brought unlikely equaliser for the Cobblers.
Referee: Darren Handley (Bolton). Rating – inconsistent and fooled for the free-kick that brought Northampton’s equaliser.
Booked: Collins 16, Toney 33, Platt 41, Alfei 47.
Attendance: 3,448 (581 away fans).
Shots on target: City 5, Town 4.
Shots off target: City 5, Town 2.
Corners: City 7, Town 4.
Fouls: City 11, Town 12.
Offsides: City 4, Town 1.