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FA Trophy conquest kicks off a ‘massive’ nine days for York City
YORK City manager Gary Mills hopes lifting the FA Trophy was the start of a momentous nine days for the club.
Second-half goals by Matty Blair and Lanre Oyebanjo saw the Minstermen end a 90-year wait for their first national knockout competition triumph with Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Newport County at Wembley.
The Minstermen will now return to the world-famous stadium for the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final against Luton on Sunday, when they will be hoping to secure promotion back into the Football League after an eight-year absence.
Off the field, meanwhile, the City of York Council planning committee meets on Thursday to decide whether to give the go-ahead for Oakgate’s application to build a new community stadium at Monks Cross – a project that is deemed vital for the club’s long-term survival and sustainability.
On completing the first leg of a potential hat-trick of crucial victories, Mills said: “I just hope this is the start of many things for this football club.
“It’s a fantastic club and a great city full of lovely people. The ultimate aim is to get promoted but we talked about winning the Trophy from the moment we entered the competition and we were 30 seconds away from getting knocked out in the first game (before Jon Challinor’s late equaliser against Solihull) so to win it feels great and a superb start to a massive nine days for us.
“On Thursday, we will learn whether the stadium has been given the go-ahead and it is clear we have to move on. It’s not just about people coming through the turnstiles in football any more.
“You need more to progress and even survive as we have seen with a lot of teams so it’s a big day on Thursday and a massive one on Sunday. My job at the start of the season was to get York City promoted and we want to pull that off.”
Having been cheered on by almost 8,000 supporters on Saturday, Mills is willing fans to turn out in their numbers and full voice again this weekend.
As many as 40,000 Luton followers are expected to make the short trip down the M1 and, while Mills appreciates the cost of back-to-back weekend trips to the capital for his team’s supporters, he hopes members of the Minstermen faithful can be resourceful in their efforts to stump up the cash.
“Our fans were superb,” Mills enthused after Saturday’s showing.
“I remember the difference between winning and losing as a player at Wembley and our supporters do, having lost here the last two times, so it’s great to win the Trophy for them and they will have smiled all the way home.
“I know it’s not cheap to come down and have a day out at Wembley. It’s not easy for them financially, especially because we have got there twice.
“But I hope everyone can make the effort to come to both matches and those who came on Saturday, who thought they could not afford two trips, will probably be ready to trade whatever is on their mantelpiece to come down and support us this weekend.”
Mills believes winning under the arch for the first time will lift the team’s self-belief going into Sunday’s clash against a Luton team they have already beaten three times and drawn once with this season.
He added: “We’ve won five and drawn one of our last six games and that gives you great confidence.
“The players also now know what it feels like to win at Wembley and that’s a great thing to take into the next match.”
Blair further enhanced his reputation as the man for the big occasion when he added a Wembley goal to the two headers that booked City’s places in the FA Trophy and play-off finals.
On his 19-goal top scorer, Mills said: “He never gives up even if his first touch is not the best, even if he puts the ball out of play from a cross, even if he misses a chance or if he falls over.
“It does not bother him and he is always capable of doing what he did for the first goal and he deserves all the plaudits he receives.”
The City manager is hoping, however, that Wembley’s playing surface might be slicker on Sunday, pointing out that the pitch might have played a part in his team’s unsure first-half performance.
He said: “We played into Newport’s hands in the first half and, while the pitch looked wonderful, it would have been nice if it had been watered because the ball was sticking a bit and that did not help us play the way we like to.
“We knew Newport would close us down in midfield quickly and, at times, we were looking for the wrong pass.
“I wasn’t enjoying the way we were playing in the first half but I could not get my messages over. Everyone was saying the Wembley pitch would suit us but you still have to pick the right passes and sometimes have to miss some out depending on the conditions.
“Luckily, we had 15 minutes at half-time in which we could address that and we adjusted and adapted.”
The magical surroundings were to Mills’ liking, however, with the City chief admitting: “There were tears in my eyes when I walked the team out. It was emotional and Wembley does that to you.”
Centre-back Chris Doig failed a fitness test on his groin problem the day before Saturday’s final and now faces a race to be available for the play-off final.
“There was no chance of him playing on Saturday but, hopefully, we will have the option of him being fit for Sunday,” Mills explained.