IT will be back to the grindstone this week for York City boss Martin Gray and his players following a highly-frustrating 2-2 draw at Leamington’s New Windmill Ground.

Despite his side throwing away the chance of maximum points by conceding two goals in the last five minutes against the modest Midlanders, Gray argued with some justification that his side’s display had been an improvement on the previous weekend’s 2-1 home triumph against Brackley.

For 84 minutes, aside from their dominance not being reflected by a wider margin than their 2-0 lead, City had produced the ideal away performance.

Jon Parkin’s ninth goal of the season early in the second half, following David Ferguson’s first in the club’s colours, looked to have killed the game off, with Leamington seemingly resigned to their fate.

Little happened for half-an-hour after Parkin’s 53rd-minute effort, as City’s resolute back-line held firm and won their aerial contests.

An enforced reshuffle, necessitated to prevent Alex Whittle from aggravating his niggly groin problem, appeared to unsettle the visitors, though, with centre-half Jassem Sukar pressed into full-back duty and, within six minutes of Whittle’s departure, Leamington had scrambled in two scruffy goals from set-pieces courtesy of Junior English and Liam Canavan.

A frustrated Gray will now be looking forward to another week on the Wigginton Road training ground as he dedicates more time to the issues that caused his new team to drop a precious two points.

The visitors had earlier asserted their authority from the first whistle, with a positive Whittle marauding down the left and delivering a cross that saw Simon Heslop’s downward volley call home keeper Jose Viega into his first save after just 44 seconds.

Heslop was also involved in the sweeping move that led to City’s ninth-minute opener.

His excellent crossfield pass from right to left sent Adriano Moke sprinting down the wing and his centre was then met with a firm, ten-yard, first-time finish by Ferguson, who played in an advanced midfield role following Whittle’s recall.

Shortly afterwards, Ferguson found himself in an almost identical position following good work down the left by the energetic Amari Morgan-Smith but, this time, his shot flashed past Viega’s top corner, setting the tone for a wasteful spell that would last until the break.

After Parkin flicked over with the outside of his boot when Sean Newton’s throw dropped to him in the box, the latter squandered another great chance to double the visitors’ lead.

Former Cape Verde international Viega, now 40, was making his debut in the home goal, having been recruited from Hednesford Town where he is goalkeeper coach, because of an injury to first-choice Tony Breeden.

His early contributions hardly inspired confidence in his new team-mates but, when English headed against his own bar after Josh Law’s free kick had caused consternation in the Brakes’ box, Newton volleyed wildly over from six yards out.

Parkin went on to miss the target with a long-range, chest-and-volley effort, before lifting over a 15-yard attempt after exchanging passes with Morgan-Smith.

Centre-back Hamza Bencherif also saw a downward header bounce wide from another Law dead-ball delivery, before Newton was culpable again in first-half injury-time.

Given another free shot on goal – this time from ten yards – after Morgan-Smith had pulled the ball back from the by-line following more determined play, the City skipper blazed out of the ground.

Having managed ten shots to the home side’s one, City supporters were left to reflect on whether such profligacy would prove costly, but such concerns were generally allayed when Parkin punished more uncertain goalkeeping by Viega.

After Leamington had briefly threatened with Rob Thompson-Brown hitting the outside of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s near post from the left wing, the City debutant punted a long kick out of his hands that the on-loan Leeds net-minder’s opposite number horribly misjudged.

Clawing desperately as the ball bounced over him in his own penalty area, Viega could only watch on as Parkin kept his composure to take a couple of strides forward and prod into an inviting net. Little in the subsequent exchanges then suggested anything other than an away win.

Substitute Louis Almond might have done better when he was sent through the right channel but, when his drive was directed away from goal on 80 minutes, there was little sense of imminent danger at the other end of the pitch.

That changed, though, on 85 minutes when Sukar failed to deal with a free kick into the box and, after Kurtis Revan’s shot was blocked, English bundled the ball over the line from a couple of yards.

Then, heart-breakingly for the City faithful that had made one of this term’s longest journeys, Paul Holleran’s men drew level from their next attack.

Revan’s 88th-minute throw from the right was not cleared at the near post and fellow sub Canavan reacted first to curl a ten-yard shot beyond Peacock-Farrell with his left foot.

Stunned by the scoreline, the visitors laid siege to the Leamington goal late on, forcing a flurry of corners with a deflected Parkin chip just dipping over and Bencherif seeing a stoppage-time, close-range chance cleared off the line.

That effort came in front of the rather grandly-named North Bank, where a tractor could be seen ploughing a field before and during the game.

Gray must now carry on sowing the seeds for future growth at Bootham Crescent, as he looks to restore the club’s health following such a frustrating spa-town visit.


Bailey Peacock-Farrell 7

Josh Law 7

Hamza Bencherif 8

Dan Parslow 7

Alex Whittle 7

Simon Heslop 7

Adriano Moke 7

Sean Newton 6

David Ferguson 7

Jon Parkin 7

Amari Morgan-Smith 7

Substitutes: Louis Almond (for Morgan-Smith, 76), Jassem Sukar (for Whittle, 82).

Subs not used: Luke Simpson, Theo Wharton, Kaine Felix.

Star man: Bencherif – won almost every header he contested


Jose Veiga, James Mace, Jamie Hood, Junior English, Connor Gudger, Kieran Dunbar, Joe Clarke, Joe Magunda, Jack Edwards (Liam Canavan, 70), Rob Thompson-Brown (Ahmed Obeng, 74), Stefan Moore (Kurtis Revan, 65). Subs not used: Richard Taundry, Callum Gittings.

Leamington star man: Revan – enthusiastic sub

Referee: Declan Bourne rating: 7/10 – sensible for most part

Booked: None

Sent off: None

Attendance: 965

Shots on target: Leamington 5, City 5

Shots off target: Leamington 1, City 9

Corners: Leamington 2, City 8

Fouls conceded: Leamington 5, City 11

Offside: Leamington 0, City 6