YORK City romped to their biggest Football League win since 1995 after beating beleaguered Bristol Rovers 4-1.
A total of 438 games have passed, either side of the club’s eight-year Conference hiatus, since the Minstermen enjoyed a larger margin of victory against any of the country’s top 92 teams in a League fixture.
That occasion saw a City side, with Paul Baker (2), Steve Bushell, Jon McCarthy and Graeme Murty on target, deliver a 5-0 bashing of Blackpool.
More than 17 years on, Gary Mills’ team displayed a level of potency and dominance that was missing during the nine seasons prior to their descent into non-League football back in 2004.
In fact, during that last League Two campaign, Chris Brass’ team failed to score more than two goals in a single League and cup encounter.
Ashley Chambers might have just bettered that on his own against Rovers had he been credited with his team’s first goal when Garry Kenneth headed his curling, on-target cross past helpless goalkeeper Sam Walker.
That was debatable but what could not be denied was how ludicrous visiting manager Mark McGhee’s pre-match observation that City were not blessed with a huge amount of pace appeared at the final whistle.
Making a mockery of that statement, Chambers left the Rovers defence trailing in his wake time after time with Matty Blair no slouch either, of course, on the opposite flank.
Had it been graded, such sloppy homework would have merited an ‘E-’ at best for McGhee and the Pirates’ board were far from impressed either, sacking the former Reading, Leicester and Wolves chief within an hour of the final whistle.
The opposition might have been in disarray – the defeat was Rovers’ sixth in succession on the road – but the Minstermen, nevertheless, showed character to record only a third home win themselves in 14 fixtures.
Applauded throughout by Mills for playing the patient passing game he preaches, City took 13 minutes to create their first opening but that chance finished in the back of the net, as did the next three.
Mills has often lamented his team’s profligacy this term but he could have no complaints on Saturday as every one of the hosts’ first four attempts on Walker’s goal rippled the net within the opening 34 minutes.
At the other end of the pitch, the heart of City’s defence still looked a little susceptible to pace and you now have to trawl back through the record books to January 2005 to uncover the last time the club went longer than the current sequence of nine matches without a clean sheet.
Indeed, Rovers might have taken advantage of a defensive lapse as early as the 12th minute when Michael Potts’ firm pass was miscontrolled by Chris Smith and Fabian Broghammer hared away from the City captain. But the German winger’s low 12-yard shot was directed straight at Michael Ingham.
Just moments later, the hosts forged ahead when Chambers darted down the left flank before cut -ting back on to his right foot. His dangerous inswinging centre brushed off Kenneth’s head and left Walker grasping at thin air.
That goal was the first in a frantic three minutes with on-loan Bolton striker Tom Eaves turning away from a ponderous Chris Doig moments later and, as Jamal Fyfield was unable to make a covering challenge, drove inside an exposed Ingham’s left-hand upright from the edge of the penalty box.
Seconds after the restart, though, Blair was sprinting past defenders on the right flank before firing an inviting cross into the six-yard box that saw a perfectly-timed stooping header from Chambers leave Walker helpless.
As City ran riot, Blair was then inches away from applying a finishing touch after Fyfield’s low centre had travelled across the face of Rovers’ goal.
Mills’ team did not have to wait much longer, however, for a terrific third goal.
A crisp move finished with Chambers back-heeling into Paddy McLaughlin’s direction and the former Newcastle United reserve then lifted the ball towards Walker who, having burst into the penalty box through the left channel, beat his Rovers’ namesake with a perfectly-controlled volley into the harassed ’keeper’s bottom left-hand corner.
City survived another scare on 27 minutes when Potts lost possession in his own half and Broghammer’s shot deflected off Chris Smith before looping narrowly off target with Ingham beaten.
But Chambers ended the game as a contest when he left Matt Lund for dead and burst through the left channel to collect McLaughlin’s through ball. His delightfully deft finish again saw an advancing Walker comprehensively beaten.
During the six minutes of first-half stoppage time, necessary after a winded McLaughlin was stretchered off with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, Ingham was called into action to tip over Joe Anyinsah’s drive and Potts also cleared a Tom Parkes header off the line following Broghammer’s corner.
Only a last-gasp interception by Michael Smith, though, prevented Chambers claiming a definite hat-trick early in the second half after Scott Kerr’s through ball.
Chambers also fired a 25-yard volley down Walker’s throat before exiting the action to avoid aggravating a minor groin niggle.
By that time, teenager Tom Allan had come on for his full debut with Doig also nursing an injury.
The York-born defender did little wrong but could only look on as Chris Smith thrust his hand in the air to appeal for offside, only for Eaves to charge clear on goal.
Eaves went on to round Ingham but could only find the side-netting with Smith racing back to cover the near post.
On 64 minutes, Parkes headed over from a Jim Paterson cross before City substitute Jonathan Smith had two great opportunities to mark his return from a loan spell at Luton with a goal.
His first effort from Potts’ floated free-kick into the penalty box was blocked by a visiting defender. The second saw Smith drag wastefully wide from 15 yards after Fyfield’s cross had been cleared.
In between, Ingham again proved a stubborn last line of defence for the Minstermen, saving from Smith after he had escaped Alex Rodman to charge on to Seanan Clucas’ forward pass.
City now prepare for this weekend’s home contest with leaders Gilligham looking up the table rather than downwards.
Had Mills’ side lost on Saturday, then they would have been positioned just one point closer to the play-off places than they were to the relegation zone.
Instead, the Minstermen go into the mouth-watering match four points adrift of the top seven and 12 clear of the bottom two.
York City 4 (Kenneth og 14 Chambers 16, 33 Walker 19), Bristol Rovers 1 (Eaves 15)
Michael Ingham 8
Made himself a difficult man to beat during a succession of one-on-one chances for the visitors.
Dan Parslow 8
Stuck to his task well against a quick adversary in Broghammer.
Chris Smith 6
Given some nervous moments by the Bristol forwards and lucky not to be punished by a goal.
Chris Doig 6
Culpable for the first goal and fitness question marks remains following his second-half withdrawal.
Jamal Fyfield 8
Always dangerous when raiding down the left flank and also ready to cover at the back when needed.
Scott Kerr 9
Pulled the strings in his midfield anchorman role and rarely wasted a pass.
Michael Potts 7
Took on board Mills’ second-ball complaint from the previous week and was a willing competitor for possession.
Paddy McLaughlin 8
Two sublime assists for the last two goals before departing the action following a brave midfield challenge.
Matty Blair 7
Excellent cross from the right for City’s second goal and, although odd pass went astray, was typically full of running.
Jason Walker 8
Expert finish for City’s third goal and swapped position with his fellow forwards to aid the team when necessary.
Ashley Chambers 9
STAR MAN – terrorised the visitors with his purposeful bursts of pace and finished in devastating fashion.
Subs: Jonathan Smith 7 – energetic (for McLaughlin 45), Tom Allan 7 – disciplined (for Doig, 57), Alex Rodman 6 – quiet (for Chambers, 65). Subs not used: Paul Musselwhite, David McGurk, Jamie Reed, Lee Bullock.
Sam Walker, Danny Woodards (Michael Smith, 46), Guy Branston (Eliot Richards, 89), Garry Kenneth, Jim Paterson, David Clarkson, Matt Lund (Seanan Clucas, 46), Tom Parkes, Fabian Broghammer, Tom Eaves, Joe Anyisah. Subs not used: Oliver Norburn, Ellis Harrison, Conor Gough, Derek Riordan.
Star man: Broghammer – quick and showed intuition to seize possession.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Blackburn).
Rating: 8/10 – sensible approach, decisive and appeared to communicate well with the players.
Booked: None. Sent off: None.
Attendance: 3,109 (282 from Rovers).
Shots on target: City 7, Rovers 5.
Shots off target: City 2, Rovers 5.
Corners: City 4, Rovers 5.
Fouls conceded: City 6, Rovers 11.
Offsides: City 3, Rovers 0.