WITH his five predecessors having all endured a losing start to their reigns, York City’s new manager Martin Gray bucked the depressing recent trend by taking maximum points against Brackley in his first fixture.

Succeeding where Gary Mills, Jackie McNamara, caretaker chief Richard Cresswell, Russ Wilcox and Nigel Worthington all failed, Gray celebrated a 2-1 triumph after Jon Parkin’s spectacular 86th-minute free kick had settled matters with the veteran striker’s earlier goal having been cancelled out by Aaron Williams’ equaliser.

Winning that opening contest has not always been an indicator of subsequent success – the last three to do so were Andy Porter, Colin Walker and Chris Brass – but there was a real sense that it was important for Gray and sporting director Dave Penney to inject an immediate shot of optimism into a club still reeling from relegation to the sixth tier of the game.

Whereas the above quintet might have all cited shortcomings in their inherited squads as a contributory factor following anti-climactic beginnings, Gray feels less handicapped, however, despite his reservations about the team’s fitness levels.

Those concerns appeared to carry some weight as City failed to create a single chance in the 66 minutes that elapsed between Parkin’s two goals, but his assertion that there is quality in the squad was equally borne out by the former Hull and Stoke marksman’s magnificent match-winning strike.

During the first exchanges, City had made all the running as the league’s meanest defence looked stretched with recalled attacker Aidan Connolly’s probing movement helping drive the team forward.

In the fifth minute, Parkin steered a header from Josh Law’s free kick over the crossbar and, moments later, Simon Heslop could not divert a near-post chance towards goal following good work through the left channel by Sean Newton.

The City skipper went on to see a 25-yard drive deflected over off the head of Alex Gudger.

A Dan Parslow header, meanwhile, landed on the roof of the net after the diminutive, but determined, Connolly had won an aerial ball in the box.

Parslow also managed to divert a Williams header away from Luke Simpson’s goal, with the latter preferred to Jon Worsnop between the sticks.

Away keeper Dan Lewis then used his fingertips to push over Amari Morgan-Smith’s header from a right-wing Connolly cross before Parkin pounced on 20 minutes.

Newton’s corner from the right was swung into the near post and, following the faintest of flick-ons by Parslow, Parkin headed firmly into the goal from four yards.

But, after actor Ken Morley, formerly Reg Holdsworth in Coronation Street, had taken to the microphone on the pitch at half-time to promote this year’s panto season in York, the second half seemed to be following a script familiar to City supporters witnessing the start of another new era.

Within seconds of the restart, Simpson was forced into his first save of the afternoon – a near-post parry after Williams had tried his luck from an unfavourable angle after bursting past Parslow through the right channel.

Lee Ndlovu was not as accurate when he dragged a 20-yard opportunity wide, but Simpson needed to display smart reflexes after the ball had dropped to Alex Gudger in the home box.

A more routine save saw an Ndlovu header comfortably caught but, having pushed their hosts back for much of the half, Brackley’s attacking adventure was rewarded on 69 minutes when Williams found space through the right channel and fired across Simpson into the bottom corner from 15 yards.

In an attempt to give his side a little more forward impetus, Gray introduced 16-year-old Ryan Edmondson in attack but it was the man, who had already played Championship-level football before his new strike partner was born, that ultimately inspired victory.

Falling to the ground with a theatrical grace that might yet land him a role this Christmas alongside Morley at the Grand Opera House – it is Beauty and the Beast after all – Parkin won his side a free kick.

Despite Newton and Law both then pressing their claims, City’s talisman then set his sights 25 yards from goal and belted an absolute blockbusting effort into the bewildered Lewis’ top-left corner to win the points.

Parkin’s goal also represented only the fourth time in 31 matches that Brackley have conceded more than once in a game with no side manging to net three times during that period.


Luke Simpson 7

Josh Law 7

Hamza Bencherif 7

Dan Parslow 7

David Ferguson 7

Adriano Moke 7

Simon Heslop 7

Sean Newton 7

Aidan Connolly 7

Jon Parkin 8

Amari Morgan-Smith 7

Substitutes: Kaine Felix 6 – busy (for Connolly, 62), Ryan Edmondson (or Morgan-Smith, 73), Theo Wharton (for Moke, 74).

Subs not used: Jassem Sukar, Jon Worsnop.

Star man: Parkin – predatory goal followed by one of finest free kicks you could wish to see


Danny Lewis, Ellis Myles, Connor Franklin, Gareth Dean, Alex Gudger, Glenn Walker (Ben Tilney, 90), Shane Bryne, Jack Byrne (Matt Lowe, 46), Adam Walker, Lee Ndlovu, Aaron Williams. Subs not used: Steve Diggin, Greg Kaziboni, Jordan Williams.

Brackley star man: Williams – strong and mobile

Referee: Thomas Parsons rating: 5/10 – naïve at times

Booked: Wharton 80, Gudger 85, S Byrne 90+2

Sent off: None

Attendance: 2,730 (37 from Brackley)

Shots on target: City 3, Brackley 4

Shots off target: City 5, Brackley 3

Corners: City 6, Brackley 5

Fouls conceded: City 14, Brackley 9

Offside: City 3, Brackley 2