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York City v Cheltenham Town: Big goals difference
YORK City captain Chris Smith has warned Cheltenham Town that their hosts tomorrow will boast much more firepower than they did on the Robins’ last visit to Bootham Crescent.
The Gloucestershire club, then managed by former Minstermen chief John Ward, secured a 2-0 away victory in April 2004.
It was a result that left City’s Football League status hanging by a thread and was the 16th win-less match in a run of 20 that would culminate in the club’s relegation to non-League football.
That sorry sequence saw the Minstermen net just ten times – an average of one every other game – with Smith, who played in that last meeting with Cheltenham, reflecting this week on the difference between his current attacking team-mates in front of goal.
City have netted in all nine of their fixtures this season and only been kept off the scoresheet once in 26 contests – by last season’s eventual Blue Square Bet Premier champions Fleetwood.
On that statistic and his memories of a shot-shy 2004, Smith said: “Back then, we could not get a tap-in or a worldie from 35 yards. Nothing seemed to go in for us.
“But now, as a defender, you watch and admire some of the movement and we create four or five chances every match. We did that on Wednesday despite losing 3-1 and, with the way the gaffer plays with a front five, the players have the ability to get goals, as do our substitutes.”
Eight years ago, a diplomatic draw would have seemed acceptable for Ward who, with his Cheltenham team seeing out the season in mid-table, had no desire to see the club where he cut his managerial teeth take another step towards losing their League status.
But, without almost breaking sweat, the visitors took all three points after being gifted an own goal and a penalty.
Player-coach Lee Nogan crashed an attempted clearance into the roof of his own net on 59 minutes and goalkeeper Mark Ovendale then hauled down Paul Brayson before being sent off, allowing the future City striker, who had squandered four earlier chances, to beat stand-in stopper Darren Edmondson from the spot.
The closest Chris Brass’ team came to scoring on the night was a Richard Hope header that was cleared off the line by Northern Ireland international Grant McCann on the half-hour mark.
After the game, City were left three points behind third-bottom Rochdale with four games to play but that gap was effectively four due to the Bootham Crescent side’s inferior goal difference.
Looking back, Smith admitted that the search for a victory became as much of a psychological struggle, as a reflection of the team’s ability.
“When we went on that bad run, we didn’t think anything was going right for us on and off the field,” he recalled. “With this season and last season, it’s turned the other way and Wednesday was only our second defeat in 18 matches although we do need to get another run going now.”
How it was back then
City team (v Cheltenham): Ovendale, Wise, Smith, Hope, Edmondson, Brass (Ward), Wood, Dunning, Nogan (Cooper), Newby, George (Bell).
Number one on the day : Five Colours In Her Hair (McFly)
It also happened on April 17, 2004 : Socialist Party leader Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero was sworn in as Spain’s prime minister.