MATTY Blair’s 15th goal of the season booked York City’s place in the FA Trophy quarter-finals last night.
The Minstermen will now travel to neighbours Grimsby Town on Saturday, February 25 in the last eight of the competition after Blair’s 48th-minute goal secured a single-goal home win over Ebbsfleet United.
Blair’s effort also means he is now the club’s joint-top scorer this season with Jason Walker, who missed an injury-time penalty on his return to the City starting line-up after an eight-game absence with groin problems.
New signings Chris Doig, Erik Tonne and Ben Swallow were also given full debuts by City boss Gary Mills, while Danny Pilkington, Daniel Parslow and Matthew Blinkhorn all dropped to the bench.
Former Minstermen midfielder Neil Barrett, meanwhile, was among the visitors’ substitutes.
Northern Ireland under-21 international Paddy McLaughlin kicked off the game with a couple of off-target edge-of-the-box efforts, while Liam Enver-Marum fired the Fleet’s first attempt high and wide from 30 yards.
Tonne then forced a low save from ’keeper Preston Edwards after Swallow and Walker had combined to create the chance.
On 12 minutes, Edwards needed to react smartly to parry Tonne’s downward header from a Swallow corner before pushing McLaughlin’s follow up drive over his crossbar.
A lull in action followed before Blair had a shot blocked and then headed wide from Jon Challinor’s cross.
At the other end, Enver-Marum’s 20-yard free-kick was deflected wide, while another goalbound McLaughlin strike was blocked by Ebbsfleet defender Paul Lorraine.
A clever square pass teed up McLaughlin again for a right-footed 15-yard shot that was always drifting wide on 35 minutes before Michael Ingham ended the half by making a routine save from Gozie Ugwu’s angled drive.
City made the breakthrough with the first attack of the second period when Walker’s excellent cross from the left bounced just in front of a lunging Scott Kerr but was diverted over the line by the merest of touches from Blair at the far post.
A couple of defensive lapses might have seen Ebbsfleet respond immediately but Joe Howe shot straight at Ingham after escaping the attentions of Challinor.
Enver-Marum was then gifted a clear run on goal after Doig’s attempt to control the ball with his chest on the edge of the City penalty box.
But Ingham was alert to the danger and smothered the former Crawley striker’s low drive.
For City, Tonne flashed a fierce 25-yard effort narrowly wide and Blair warmed Edwards’ hands after cutting in from the right.
With play switching from end to end, Enver-Marum’s 12-yard strike was then deflected wide while Blair’s far-post header from an Ashley Chambers free-kick lacked the power to beat Edwards.
Calum Willock, expertly shackled by the Minstermen all evening, then wasted a great opportunity to level the scores on 87 minutes.
The ex-Stevenage striker blazed the ball over the bar from 12 yards with only Ingham to beat.
Walker, though, was even more wasteful for City after Blair had raced on to Jamie Reed’s though ball and been tripped by Howe to win an injury-time penalty.
The 5ft 9in tall forward’s sidefooted spot kick rebounded back into play off Edwards’ right-hand post.
After Edwards had been thrown forward for a visitors’ corner to no avail, Reed then spurned another chance with virtually the last kick of the game, firing over after charging on to a Kerr pass.
York City 1 (Blair 48), Ebbsfleet Utd 0
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Jon Challinor 7, Chris Smith 8, Chris Doig 7, James Meredith 6, Scott Kerr 7, Patrick McLaughlin 7, Erik Tonne 7, Matty Blair 7, Jason Walker 7, Ben Swallow 7.
Subs: Jamie Reed 7 (for Swallow, 63), Ashley Chambers 6 (for Tonne, 64), Daniel Parslow (for Meredith, 84). Not used: Pilkington, Blinkhorn.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
Star man: Chris Smith – another commanding performance to keep Willock quiet for most of the game.
Ebbsfleet United: Preston Edwards, Craig Stone, Paul Lorraine, Yado Mambo, Joe Howe, Gozie Ugwu, Ram Marwa, Tom Phipp, Nathaniel Pinney (Ricky Shakes, 80), Calum Willock, Liam Enver-Marum.
Subs (not used): Ross Smith, Tom McNeil, Alex Stavrinou, Neil Barrett.
Booked: Smith 37, Meredith 59, Marwa 85, Enver-Marum 86.
Sent off: None.
Shots on target: City 7, United 5.
Shots off target: City 8, United 5.
Corners: City 6, United 5.
Fouls conceded: City 12, United 16.
Offsides: City 4, United 3.
Referee: Richard Clark (Morpeth).
Attendance: 1,419 (20 away fans).