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Match report: Rushden and Diamonds 0, York City 4
FORGET royal weddings. York City supporters might just be embarking on a long love affair with new manager Gary Mills following another majestic performance at Rushden and Diamonds.
Marrying an unshakeable confidence in his players with a commitment to playing attractive football, Mills has transformed the Bootham Crescent club’s fortunes in a matter of weeks.
A thumping 4-0 league victory at Rushden, coming three days after dumping League Two Rotherham out of the FA Cup, has certainly left City fans contemplating a November to remember.
From Blue Square Bet Premier also rans, battered 5-0 and 4-0 by Mansfield and Newport respectively, the Minstermen have suddenly become a force to be reckoned with in the highest echelon of non-League football again.
Climbing into the top half of the table and securing a place in the FA Cup third round now seem realistic targets going into the final month of the calendar year.
Mills deserves huge credit for the turnaround, especially after contending with the loss of star midfielder Alex Lawless and a transfer request from defensive talisman David McGurk, while chairman Jason McGill’s head-hunting mission to bring the then Tamworth manager to North Yorkshire looks more inspired by the game.
Mills’ brand of pass and move football, swiftly and impressively adopted by his team, also means the Minstermen must be the last side you want to have a player sent off against in the division.
Following Rushden left-back Jamie Day’s 11th-minute dismissal, when the visitors already led 1-0, City gave a textbook example of how to make your extra man count.
David McDermott’s ability to retain possession and Ashley Chambers’ explosive pace caused the home side’s makeshift back three countless problems as the pair alternated flanks.
The Diamonds also struggled to come to terms with substitute Peter Till’s direct running on the left wing in the second half.
Danny Racchi, meanwhile, was a whirling dervish in midfield and Michael Rankine made another powerful contribution as the team’s lone striker, claiming two assists, as well as his tenth goal of the season, before the break.
At the other end of the pitch, conscientious City skipper Chris Smith has now enjoyed four clean sheets in five outings since returning to the club.
City forged ahead in front of a sparse Nene Park crowd after just eight minutes when Rankine was tripped 20 yards from goal by Michael Corcoran.
Racchi, fast becoming a dead-ball dangerman from that distance, curled the resulting free-kick over the wall and into Joe Day’s top right-hand corner.
Shortly afterwards, Jamie Day received his marching orders when he slid in for a 50-50 challenge with Djoumin Sangare which well-placed referee Steve Bratt deemed reckless 25 yards from City’s goal.
Having started the match with a 4-3-3 formation, Rushden switched to 3-4-2 but found themselves overrun.
McDermott and Chambers both made penetrative raids down the left to tee up far-post chances for each other that just went begging.
In between, hesitation between Curtis Osano and Ryan Charles had seen McDermott decisively switch play on 24 minutes.
James Meredith then released Chambers for another left-wing sprint and his pinpoint cross was met by Rankine who, from four yards out, netted his 20th goal in City colours and, surprisingly, only the second with his head.
The 6ft 3in forward used his head to more familiar effect in the 35th minute as he flicked on a long Michael Ingham punt – still one of City’s most potent attacking weapons – to release Chambers for a clear run on goal.
In turn, the on-loan Leicester City striker used the outside of his right boot to lift the ball deftly over advancing home ’keeper Day.
Rushden, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel with Aaron O’Connor testing Ingham from 12 yards and also missing an excellent edge-of-the-box chance after striking partner Rene Howe had blazed into the away end.
O’Connor also forced a near-post save from Ingham early in the second half but City might have extended their lead on 54 minutes when Meredith and Racchi combined to create an opportunity for Chambers that he drove across the face of goal.
Moments later, nimble footwork by McDermott carved out space for a 20-yard drive that narrowly missed the target while, at the other end, O’Connor flashed a shot wide following Ingham’s miskicked clearance and a Daniel Parslow slip.
Ingham redeemed himself when he stood tall to save from Howe and City sub Neil Barrett was denied by a fine double save from Day.
On 83 minutes, Johnson shot against the inside of Ingham’s right-hand post but Robbie Weir should have been celebrating his first goal for City when he somehow contrived to sidefoot wide in front of an inviting goal.
Barrett ensured the visitors made the second-half scoresheet, charging in at the far post to find the roof of the net from Till’s low cross after fellow replacement Leon Constantine had met Ingham’s boot upfield with his head.
City old boy Craig Farrell almost snatched an 88th-minute consolation during a late cameo but drove wide from 20 yards and the Diamonds, who had only conceded five home goals all season, were left shell-shocked at the final whistle.
Rushden and Diamonds 0, York City 4 (Racchi 8; Rankine 24; Chambers 35; Barrett 86)
York City: Michael Ingham 8, Daniel Parslow 8, David McGurk 8, Chris Smith 9, James Meredith 8, Djoumin Sangare 8, Robbie Weir 8, Danny Racchi 9, David McDermott 9, Ashley Chambers 9, Michael Rankine 9.
Subs: Neil Barrett 8 (for Sangare, 55), Peter Till 8 (for McDermott, 59), Leon Constantine (for Rankine, 85).
Not used: Fyfield, Carruthers.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
City’s star man: Racchi – set the ball rolling with a cracking free-kick and never let up – running, competing and prompting from midfield.
Rushden: Joe Day, Curtis Osano, Shane Huke, Jamie Stuart, Jamie Day; Max Porter, Michael Corcoran (Matt Johnson, 9), Alan Power; Ryan Charles (Craig Farrell, 79), Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe (Tim Sills, 74).
Subs not used: Lance Key, Lewwis Spence.
Booked: Osano 14, Huke 56, Howe 69, O’Connor 87.
Sent off: Jamie Day 11.
Shots on target: R&D 4, City 8.
Shots off target: R&D 11, City 5.
Corners: R&D 9, City 2.
Fouls conceded: R&D 11, City 11.
Offsides: R&D 2, City 0.
Referee: Steve Bratt (Walsall).
Rating: Day’s dismissal looked harsh. Otherwise, generally okay.
Attendance: 1,132 (133 from City).
Cross of the match: Chambers’ centre for Rankine’s goal was a striker’s dream.
Save of the match: Day’s smart double stop to deny Barrett.
Miss of the match: On-loan Weir failed to hit the target on 85 minutes.
Head to head - Michael Rankine v Jamie Stuart
Given his reputation for imposing himself physically, Rushden centre-back Stuart allowed himself to be somewhat surprisingly bullied throughout the game by the in-form Rankine.
Stuart was nowhere to be seen when Rankine headed in the visitors’ second goal, nor when he flicked on Ingham’s long punt for Chambers’ third.
In fact, the ex-Charlton defender never looked comfortable when Day’s red card meant he was left to handle Rankine alone as Rushden persevered with a 3-4-2 formation.