YORK City boss Gary Mills has admitted it feels “incredible” to be going to Wembley again.
The Minstermen completed a 3-2 aggregate FA Trophy semi-final victory at National League leaders Lincoln with substitute Scott Fenwick scoring the vital extra-time penalty after home defender Sean Raggett had levelled the two-legged contest with a 66th-minute header.
Fenwick’s spot kick means City will now meet Macclesfield, who also caused a surprise by completing a 2-1 triumph at Tranmere, on Sunday, May 21 under the world-famous arch, where Mills and the Bootham Crescent club won twice in consecutive weekends back in 2012, lifting the Trophy and then going on to secure promotion to the Football League via the play-off final.
City boss Mills insisted, meanwhile, that the “magnificent” achievement of prevailing over a table-topping Lincoln team, who also reached the FA Cup quarter-finals this season, must now act as a catalyst to ensure his relegation-threatened side stay in the National League with ten fixtures left to play.
“To beat Lincoln over two legs is magnificent and getting to Wembley again is an incredible feeling,” declared an emotional Mills. “It’s a boost for everybody and, hopefully, this is the start of us making sure we do the most vital thing, which is staying in the league because nobody wants to go there on the back of a negative.
“It’s going to be hard work but, whilst I inherited a poor dressing room, boy, we’ve got a good one now and this performance was all about HEART in capital letters. We’ve played Lincoln three times in three weeks now and they haven’t beaten us, which shows the belief we have got, because they are a good side – make no mistake about that - so nobody can begrudge us getting there.”
Despite confessing he did not watch Fenwick’s 105th-minute spot kick, Mills revealed that everybody in the squad felt the former Hartlepool forward was the best man for the job when a diving Luke Waterfall was controversially adjudged to have handled Hamza Bencherif’s low drive by one of referee Ben Toner’s assistants.
“I didn’t watch the penalty, but I’m told he never misses them,” Mills pointed out. “Everybody was saying he should take it on the bench and Scotty is a confident lad who believes in himself.
“We’ve kept him around the camp and now he’s scored a goal that he will remember. I don’t know whether it was a penalty but, when you work hard, these decisions go for you, rather than against you, as they were doing four months ago.”
Almost 700 City supporters made the trip to Sincil Bank with Mills expressing his pleasure at rewarding them for their loyalty, before then dedicating the victory to club owner and chairman Jason McGill.
“Our fans were immense again and I’m delighted for them and the chairman,” Mills said. “He’s an emotional man and I know what he’s been through and I’m not saying this to be soft, or because I want a ten-year contract, but getting to Wembley is for him.”
City lost asthma sufferer Vadaine Oliver and fellow forward Amari Morgan-Smith to cramp in the closing stages, while 35-year-old veteran Jon Parkin played the full two hours with Mills adding: “Vadaine had an asthma attack the day before the game and he was struggling to breathe, but wanted to play for as long as he could.
“Amari also had to come off, which meant that our old man Jon Parkin out-lasted all of them and what an incredible man and player he is.”
Mills went on to hail the performance from the bench, meanwhile, of Adriano Moke in both legs with the former Glenn Hoddle Academy graduate running the home side ragged after being introduced as a 71st-minute replacement for the recalled Aidan Connolly.
“He has put in two outstanding performances as a substitute in both legs,” the Minstermen chief enthused.
The emphasis will now be on rest and recovery as City’s players prepare for a vital home match against bottom-of-the-table Southport on Tuesday night.
“We’ve just got to keep things ticking over at the moment,” Mills reasoned. “We went for a walk on the walls around York on the Thursday before this game.
“That was our training. I’d never done that before and it was great to have a look at our beautiful city from up there.”