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Match report: York City 2, Chesterfield 2
Buy this photo » Jason Walker is mobbed after grabbing a late leveller for York City
BETTER three hours too soon than a minute too late, William Shakespeare once opined.
But try telling that to Gary Mills and his York City players.
Even after the indicated minimum four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed in Saturday’s home match with Chesterfield, the Minstermen still refused to believe they were beaten.
And, 20 seconds later, Jason Walker ’s spectacular 12-yard volley had earned the hosts a 2-2 draw to extend their unbeaten run to a fifth game.
Few in the delirious David Longhurst, Main and Popular stands will have been surprised, however.
Quite the opposite actually because the Bootham Crescent faithful have grown accustomed to such gritty comebacks from their team.
Last season, Mills’ men recovered a sensational 17 points from losing positions with seven of those collected courtesy of injury-time goals.
The team were also trailing before prevailing in their play-off semi-final and final meetings with Mansfield and Luton respectively while, in the FA Trophy, Jon Challinor’s goal deep into added-on time kept City in the competition they would go to win as they stared a first-round exit to Solihull Moor firmly in the face.
Later, in the semi-final second leg, Matty Blair pounced in the 90th minute at Luton to send his side into the Wembley final after the Hatters had earlier levelled the scores on aggregate.
Already, less than a month into the new season, the signs are City will be no easier to shrug off in League Two.
Just as at Morecambe last month, the Minstermen went behind twice to the Spireites before earning a share of the spoils.
Three goals in five first-half minutes saw Michael Coulson’s reply to Sam Hird’s opening goal swiftly wiped out by Craig Westcarr but, when Walker struck ‘a minute too late’, there was no time left for the visitors to respond again.
Earlier, a minute’s silence had been well observed in the memory of David Longhurst 22 years on from the former City striker’s fatal heart attack on the Bootham Crescent pitch.
The subsequent chanting of the late striker’s name in the stand chosen to honour him was equally powerful.
City, meanwhile, immediately set to their task with overlapping left-back Charlie Taylor winning a first-minute free-kick that earned Chesterfield winger Drew Talbot an early caution.
Ashley Chambers ’ dangerous curling free-kick to the far post, though, was attacked by neither team and, despite a decent level of delivery, the hosts rarely threatened from set-pieces all afternoon.
The game also failed to ignite after that promising start with Talbot’s right-wing cross that bounced off the top of Michael Ingham ’s crossbar the only noteworthy moment until Spireites ’keeper Richard O’Donnell made a meal of tipping over Chris Smith ’s downward header from Coulson’s corner midway through the half.
City chances were infrequent against a Chesterfield team working hard to get bodies behind the ball when their hosts were in possession and Walker’s 20-yard effort on the half-hour mark lacked both the power and direction to beat O’Donnell.
Six minutes later, the visitors had taken the lead when Westcarr whipped in a free-kick from the left, conceded by Lanre Oyebanjo .
Ingham then reacted well to parry Marc Richards’ header and his follow-up effort but his defence was not as alert and Hird tapped in unchallenged when a third opportunity fell to him.
After Coulson tested O’Donnell with a curling 25-yard free-kick, City then struck back on 40 minutes with the former Grimsby and Barnsley winger’s fourth goal of the campaign.
Walker carefully lifted the ball over the Chesterfield defence to release Coulson through the right channel and the former Grimsby winger’s finish over an advancing O’Donnell was just as deft eight yards from goal.
But parity was shortlived and, within seconds, a through ball from Sam Togwell dissected City’s midfield and a flat-footed defence far too easily to leave Westcarr sprinting clear on goal. The former Kettering forward made no mistake with his finish, sidefooting under Ingham’s body from ten yards.
Untracked teenage winger Jacob Hazel, making his full debut, then squandered an excellent opening on the stroke of half-time when he blazed wide after the ball had been allowed to travel far too easily across the hosts’ penalty box.
City switched to 4-4-2 for the second half with Blair, who had struggled to impose himself in his surprise role as an attacking central midfielder, moved to the right wing and Chambers pushed alongside Walker in attack.
Despite long periods of possession, though, the Minstermen could not trouble O’Donnell’s goal with Walker volleying wide from the edge of the box and Clarke Carlisle failing to find the target with a far-post header from Coulson’s corner.
Chesterfield sat deeper and deeper and only once tested Ingham in the second half with the City ’keeper producing a smart stop to keep out Neal Trotman’s close-range header but the visiting defender was penalised for climbing in any case.
The Spireites continued to fend off a series of Oyebanjo long throws and home corners but, as temporary boss Tommy Wright closed in on the team’s first League win of the season, City had other ideas.
Chambers sent in one final cross from the left, which Chris Smith did brilliantly to nod back towards Walker at the far post.
The former Barrow forward, knowing he had only one split second to secure a point for his team, then perfectly volleyed into O’Donnell’s top left-hand corner from 12 yards.
Another minute later, referee Darren Bond brought an end to proceedings and inevitably incurred the wrath of Chesterfield chief Wright, while his former Leicester team-mate Mills was left celebrating his team’s elevation into a play-off place.
York City 2 (Coulson 40; Walker 90+5), Chesterfield 2 (Hird 36; Westcarr 41)
Michael Ingham 7
Unlucky to be beaten for the first goal after two fine saves and solid other than a couple of untypically flat kicks.
Lanre Oyebanjo 6
Reserved in his attacking surges and lost teenager Hazel occasionally.
Chris Smith 7
Combative throughout and made Walker’s goal with a determined leap at the far post.
Clarke Carlisle 6
Strong in the air again and, while looking a little tired, will benefit from a third full game in eight days.
Charlie Taylor 6
Decision making was not as sound as in previous games with some dangerous passes inside playing team-mates into trouble.
Dan Parslow 7
Moved the ball around the pitch sensibly in the first half before proving he can play as part of a midfield two in the second.
Jonathan Smith 7
Stole possession on numerous occasions and harried the opposition constantly.
Matty Blair 6
The searing heat perhaps did not suit his high-octane game in midfield but kept never gave up until the final whistle.
Michael Coulson 7
Once more proved himself adept at popping up in great positions in the penalty box, leading to his fourth goal of the season.
Jason Walker 8
STAR MAN – two moments of quality from the classy striker ended with City getting on the scoresheet both times.
Ashley Chambers 7
Quiet at times by recent standards but his cross for the last-gasp equaliser was a vital contribution.
Chesterfield: Richard O’Donnell, Terrell Forbes, Neal Trotman, Sam Hird, Liam Ridehalgh, Mark Allott (Craig Clay, 85), Sam Togwell, Drew Talbot, Jacob Hazel (Scott Boden, 60), Marc Richards (Jack Lester, 88), Craig Westcarr.
Subs not used: Tendayi Darikwa, Jonathan Wafula, Mark Randell, Mark Crossley.
Star man: Sam Togwell – assured performer in midfield.
Referee: Darren Bond (Burscough). Rating: 6/10 – made a few puzzling calls but okay in general.
Booked: Talbot 1, Walker 43, Coulson 51, Forbes 56.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 5,119 (1,444 away fans).
Shots on target: City 5, Spireites 5.
Shots off target: City 2, Spireites 3.
Corners: City 9, Spireites 6.
Fouls conceded: City 12, Spireites 12.
Offsides: City 3, Spireites 2.