YORK City boss Gary Mills believes his side have the heart, desire and form to finish off Lincoln in Saturday’s FA Trophy semi-final second leg.
The Minstermen go into the Sincil Bank showdown with a 2-1 advantage after goals from Vadaine Oliver and Aidan Connolly cancelled out Lee Angol’s first-half penalty as the tie reached its mid-way point at Bootham Crescent.
Mills’ team drew 1-1 in their league clash at the table-topping Imps a fortnight ago and, with City having only lost two of their last 17 games, the 2012 Trophy-winning boss has the May 22 Wembley final firmly in his sights.
He said: “We didn’t want to go there 1-0 down or whatever, but we’re quite confident of winning all the games we play in and, if not, then drawing them. We don’t even think about losing and, as long as they don’t score more goals than us on Saturday, we’ll be going to Wembley, but we also know you’ve always got to work hard to get there.
“Our philosophy was a bit different when we were in this situation before and we don’t quite play the same good football, but the game is also about heart, desire and work-rate. I watched Brighton beat Derby the other day with incredible work-rate and that can win you football matches. It’s now got to win us a lot more.”
Mills went on to hail the performances of his substitutes again after Connolly deflected a shot from fellow replacement Adriano Moke past Lincoln keeper Ross Etheridge for the winning goal.
On Saturday, meanwhile, Scott Fenwick and Yan Klukowski got late goals in the 2-2 draw at Sutton after being hailed from the bench.
Against Lincoln, Fenwick made way for Connolly at half-time having played the first 45 minutes as a makeshift midfielder and Mills added: “Maybe I didn’t get the selection right in the first half and the subs gave us that bit of energy and something a bit different, so all credit to them.
“It’s a difficult thing for a player when you name the starting XI and they’re not in it and you have to show character to come off the bench and prove you should be. The subs in the last two games have done that.
“We had a weaker bench (against Lincoln), but I was still able to bring on the two senior players who were capable of changing the game and they did that.”
On the scruffiness of the winning goal, Mills went on to grin: “Goals are goals and are beautiful however you get them.”
The City chief also conceded that his side’s improvement after the break was needed after a first half when the visitors could have been out of sight.
“They dictated the first 45 minutes and looked like they were going to score two or three more in the first half,” Mills admitted. “We didn’t start the game well at all and there was a lot of moaning because we couldn’t get into the game, but that happens and, when it does, you have to dig in.
“Fortunately, we were only 1-0 down and we had a chat at half-time. We then won virtually all the second balls in the first five minutes of the restart and we kicked on from there.”
Mills was delighted with the manner in which Amari Morgan-Smith and Oliver combined for the first goal as well, with the former sending in a cross that the latter headed beyond Etheridge from 12 yards.
“Amari was outstanding,” the Bootham Crescent boss enthused. “He gives you absolutely everything and never stops working “Nobody gets up better than Vadaine either and, if the right balls go in there, he will get goals with his head and we’ve talked about that.”
A depleted City squad saw teenage midfielders Tyler Walton and Sam Fielding named as substitutes, but it is hoped that Dan Parslow and Asa Hall, who were both missing due to a sickness bug, will be back for the weekend.
Yan Klukoswki (calf) is unlikely to recover in time, whilst Alex Whittle was withdrawn midway through the second half with a hamstring problem and keeper Kyle Letheren played on with a pulled thigh muscle, meaning both will need to be monitored before the return leg.
The City boss is hoping, too, that the Cowley brothers – Lincoln’s management team of Danny and Nicky – do not attempt to exert their influence over the officials on Saturday in the manner they did at Bootham Crescent.
“They were trying to get our players booked and sent off and I reacted to that once, having tried not to before that,” Mills explained. “It probably shows we were in their faces and they didn’t like it.
“My players were late on a couple of occasions and committed fouls, but that’s what football’s about. There was nothing malicious in it.
“They were just too quick for us in the first half. Everybody reacts to fouls of course, but going to the fourth official and referee all the time trying to get people sent off is not my way of doing things.”