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Match report: Braintree 0, York City 1
ENDING a week in which York City had mourned the loss of their greatest-ever signing from Sheffield United – legendary striker Arthur Bottom – on-loan Blade Erik Tonne could not have chosen a more fitting time to display his cutting edge in front of goal.
Fifty seven years on from Bottom’s goalscoring exploits during the Happy Wanderers’ famous run to the 1955 FA Cup semi-final, Tonne was on target as the Minstermen claimed a 1-0 win at ten-man Braintree to secure their place in this season’s Blue Square Bet Premier play-offs.
Unlike Bottom, who hit a hat-trick on his City debut, Tonne’s impact, since swapping Bramall Lane for Bootham Crescent at the end of January, has been far from immediate. But, in only his second league outing for the Minstermen, the 20-year-old Norwegian struck decisively just four minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute.
His 75th-minute effort also spared the blushes of 18-goal top scorer Jason Walker, who was guilty of an extraordinary first-half miss.
Earlier, the game’s turning point had also been inadvertently provided by City skipper Chris Smith’s under-hit back pass on 27 minutes.
Smith’s blunder gifted home striker Sean Marks a free run on Paul Musselwhite’s goal. The City ’keeper then appeared to claim the ball with his legs and Marks, who had attempted to round him, tumbled over his body, leading to Braintree shouts for a penalty.
Away fans held their breath, knowing the potential repercussions for their team of a red card and suspension for Musselwhite with first-choice ’keeper Michael Ingham still sidelined by a shin injury, but referee Stephen Martin opted to show Marks a second yellow card, accusing the centre forward of simulation.
It seemed a harsh decision although if two wrongs do make a right, then perhaps Marks did deserve his dismissal.
Prior to crashing into Jon Challinor to pick up his first caution on 20 minutes, the 26-year-old forward had somehow escaped further censure after Martin awarded a free-kick following his elbow on Dan Parslow.
The Stafford official’s erratic afternoon did not end there either, puzzlingly booking Matty Blair later in the half for another supposed dive and then arrogantly over-ruling his assistant for a clearly correctly-awarded throw-in.
Before Marks received his marching orders, the match had been a classic case of brain against brawn as City’s patient passing game contrasted starkly with the Iron’s muscular brand of football.
On 17 minutes, Ashley Chambers’ ten-yard header came back off a beaten Nathan McDonald’s right-hand upright, following determined play and a fine cross by Michael Potts, making his full league debut at the Amlin Stadium.
At the other end, Musselwhite tipped over Billy Gibson’s rising drive at his near post but the 43-year-old veteran might have been punished when he left his goal unguarded to try to catch Ben Wright’s corner to the far post, only for Dean Wells to head wide with the City goalkeeper coach floundering.
Moments later, Marks departed proceedings and the Minstermen dictated for the rest of the match.
Walker’s incredible failure to find the net on 36 minutes, however, ensured the two teams went in level at the break. The former Barrow and Luton forward was three yards out in front of an open goal after Blair’s low cross from the right had taken ’keeper McDonald out of the equation.
But Walker somehow contrived to hit the bar, with Paddy McLaughlin doing the same from the rebound before Chambers was denied by McDonald, concluding a crazy sequence of events. Potts also drilled a 25-yard drive straight down the throat of McDonald on the stroke of half-time.
From the restart, City were camped in the Braintree half almost permanently with the likes of right-back Challinor and James Meredith, from midfield, carrying the ball forward to drive the team on, while the rest of the side retained possession with care.
On 54 minutes, Potts lifted a 15-yard effort over the bar and Chambers, cutting in from the left, went on to force McDonald into a near-post save.
Challinor tried to also beat the home ’keeper at his near post from a narrow angle after weaving his way into the penalty box, while Walker and Meredith both missed the target from the edge of the box.
The hosts launched a 69th-minute counter attack but Gibson’s low drive was comfortably kept out by Musselwhite and, shortly afterwards, the Minstermen made the breakthrough.
Chambers fed Walker who, in turn, spotted Tonne’s charge into the penalty box and rolled the ball into his path. From 12 yards, the skilful Scandinavian then finished confidently into the advancing McDonald’s bottom left-hand corner.
Three minutes later, Chambers went close to doubling the advantage but his shot was smothered by McDonald after Blair’s through ball.
After towering centre-back Adam Bailey-Dennis had seen a looping header land on top of Musselwhite’s netting, the visitors then preserved their lead with little trouble and Walker, Challinor and Potts all had late opportunities to add to the scoreline.
City supporters celebrated reaching the play-offs at the final whistle while the result also meant Mills’ team had broken a new club record, having suffered just three away defeats in the league all season.
That tally beat the previous best set 38 years ago by the 1973/74 side who only lost four times on the road on their way to becoming the club’s only group of players to gain promotion to the second tier of English football.
Time will tell whether the class of 2011/12 can now create more history by completing a unique Wembley double.
Braintree 0, York City 1 (Tonne 75)
York City: Paul Musselwhite 7, Jon Challinor 8, Daniel Parslow 7, Chris Smith 7, Jamal Fyfield 7, Michael Potts 7, Paddy McLaughlin 7, James Meredith 8, Matty Blair 7, Jason Walker 7, Ashley Chambers 7.
Subs: Erik Tonne (for McLaughlin, 71), Scott Brown (for Chambers, 82), Moses Ashikodi (for Walker, 90). Not used: Jamie Reed, Matthew 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: Challinor – took the game to Braintree in the second half with some positive probing.
Braintree: Nathan McDonald, Matt Paine, Dean Wells, Adam Bailey-Dennis, Ryan Peters (Brad Quinton, 80), Billy Gibson (Jamie Guy, 90), Kenny Davis, Pat O’Connor, Jai Reason (Nicky Simons, 81), Sean Marks, Ben Wright.
Subs not used: Matt Pooley, Pete Haxell.
Booked: Marks 20, Blair 43, Reason 45, Bailey-Dennis 89. Sent off: Marks 27.
Shots on target: Town 2, City 10.
Shots off target: Town 2, City 9.
Corners: Town 4, City 8.
Fouls conceded: Town 19, City 6.
Offsides: Town 2, City 1.
Referee: Stephen Martin (Stafford). Rating: really bad. Got big decisions wrong, as well as more routine matter.
Attendance: 1,129 (450 from City).
Miss of the match: Even at this early stage, Walker’s first-half howler will surely go down as Miss of the Millennium.