1 Scott Fenwick has nerves of steel
In terms of make-or-break moments for a York City career, they don’t come much bigger than that which was played out in the final throes of the first period of extra-time at Sincil Bank. Fenwick had only been on the pitch ten minutes at that point but, despite disappointingly making little impression since his summer move, the former Hartlepool striker stepped forward in front of the travelling army of fans, who were in no mood for their exultancy at winning a penalty to be quickly doused.
With his unfavourable form this term, it is also likely that Fenwick might not have been forgiven as readily as other potential spot-kick candidates such as Jon Parkin or Sean Newton if they had assumed the 12-yard responsibility. Clearly, though, none of that, or the fact a successful conversion could be worth £200,000 to his club, was running through Fenwick’s mind when he stood over the ball.
Showing the professional detachment needed in such scenarios, he could not have hit a truer strike and needed to, as Imps keeper Paul Farman guessed the right way with an athletic dive, only to be beaten by the power and accuracy with which the corner of the goal was found. It was a great effort from a player with so much to lose and, in one fortune-changing stroke, saw erstwhile misfit Fenwick etch his name into Minstermen folklore.
2 Adriano Moke can still pose the same threat he did in his first spell at the club
At 27, there is still a very good player waiting to meet his full potential in the former Glenn Hoddle Academy graduate. In fact, there might be two.
Since his return to the club for a second spell with four-and-a-half years having passed in the intervening period, there were suggestions that Moke’s transformation from tearaway winger to a more sedate midfield anchorman who is, nevertheless, highly skilled in preserving possession, looked irreversible. Any signs that he could still frighten and stretch opposition teams with his speed and direct running were simply not discernible.
But his exciting contribution following his 71st-minute introduction as an attacking substitute provided his team with a much-needed energy injection and exposed some tiring legs in the hosts’ side. Moke’s driving runs with the ball were reminiscent of the play-off, semi-final surges he terrorised Mansfield with half-a-decade ago. He had also been similarly dynamic when entering the action as a second-half replacement in the first leg, teeing up Aidan Connolly’s winning goal on that night after a quick forward burst. Both displays will have given manager Gary Mills food for thought during the club’s vital last ten league fixtures.
Mills’ recent team selections have seen Moke lose out in midfield, but he could now emerge as a contender in a more advanced role, where he can bring a new dimension in the final third of the pitch.
3 Wembley remains special to players, managers, officials and supporters alike
Pre-occupation with the club’s perilous league position means the natural excitement normally surrounding the possibility of a day out at Wembley has been rightly tempered throughout this FA Trophy run. The number of away fans that travelled to Saturday’s second-leg decider, meanwhile, was only just over half the amount from Lincoln, who made the journey to Bootham Crescent in midweek last Tuesday night.
Having never played at the national stadium in their 133-year existence, getting there would have clearly meant a lot to everybody involved with the Imps. But, even though the Minstermen will now be treading the hallowed turf for a fifth time in eight years, the reaction from everybody of a North Yorkshire persuasion at the weekend highlighted that the world-famous venue still holds a unique appeal.
League concerns were temporarily cast aside but the squad’s full focus is now needed on survival to avoid the whole Wembley occasion being severely tarnished.
4 Mills continues to spot versatility in players who might not have been aware of their own utility value
The employment of Amari Morgan-Smith in a midfield role would not have been what the City chief had in mind when he brought the former Luton and Cheltenham marksman to Bootham Crescent in the transfer window. But his fitness levels and willingness to close down space saw him put in a valuable shift prior to cramp, precipitated by his industry, saw his afternoon end prematurely.
His surprise starting position was just the latest example of Mills’ ability to detect and encourage skills that the players themselves might not have recognised in their armoury. Over the two legs, skipper Simon Heslop operated on both flanks, as well as in his normal central-midfield berth.
Yan Klukowski remains the most unlikely of conversions from an attacking midfielder into a central-defensive lynchpin this season, but Mills’ refusal to pigeon-hole players is nothing new. During his first spell, he switched defensive trio James Meredith, Lanre Oyebanjo and Dan Parslow into midfield and, often, such moves heighten concentration levels in individuals and avoids complacency, as players are almost forced to think about their games more.
5 City continue to cope with personnel blows
The Minstermen have maintained a strong run of form since the start of December – losing just two of their last 18 games – despite losing key players on an almost game-by-game basis. Left-wing back Alex Whittle was the latest to be missing at Lincoln with a hamstring problem, having arguably been the squad’s most consistent outfield performer over the course of the whole season.
In the first leg, meanwhile, Parslow and Asa Hall were absent due to illness, but the belief Mills has instilled in his squad has lessened the impact of such setbacks and allowed the club to still prevail against the National League’s top team over three-and-a-half hours of football. The departures of Aarran Racine and Rhys Murphy at the turn of the year, along with injuries to key men Simon Lappin and Klukwoski, are examples of other mishaps that have, impressively, not been allowed to derail the club from their double mission of Trophy success and league safety.