YORK City have conceded four goals in consecutive league matches for the first time since October 1981.
Not since the stewardship of Barry Lyons, more than 31 years ago, have the Minstermen allowed the opposition to be so prolific during back-to-back battles for league points with Saturday’s 4-0 thumping at Wycombe following on from the 4-1 mauling by Morecambe seven days earlier.
Lyons’ team went down 4-0 to Colchester and Blackpool back in the days when Adam And The Ants’ Prince Charming was the top-selling UK single. That team would go on to finish 17th in the old fourth division standings – one place above the position Gary Mills’ team currently find themselves in.
Most Minstermen fans, who are still haunted by the collapse that saw the club surrender League status back in 2004, would now settle for the same position at the end of the current campaign.
Anxiety levels are certainly heightening among the City faithful with the successive heavy defeats forming the latter part of an equally concerning sequence of only three wins from 19 matches.
Mills’ players must now show the character to recover from such a slump, which could mean recalls for the likes of Jon Challinor and Lee Bullock, whose presence at the club seems superfluous if their experience is not to be tapped into at such a testing time.
With 27 professionals on their books, even allowing for injuries to David McGurk, Lanre Oyebanjo, Chris Doig and Michael Coulson, City certainly have the numbers to make more changes than the one Mills made for Saturday’s Wycombe match.
How many of his current squad the Minstermen chief trusts to make a difference is less clear however.
Alex Rodman, the one player to lose his place following the Morecambe match, was certainly sprightly enough after his half-time introduction but, since his arrival at Bootham Crescent, the former Tamworth forward has been dogged by an inconsistency that also saw Mills withdraw Paddy McLaughlin and Michael Potts at the break and fellow midfielder Scott Kerr just past the hour mark.
Earlier, Kerr carelessly conceded the first of two penalties that saw the visitors trail 2-0 going into the interval, with Dean Morgan gleefully converting both.
The recalled Jamal Fyfield gave away the other and, with City repeatedly unable to keep possession in the final third of the field, further efforts from Joel Grant and Dave Winfield earned Wycombe their biggest win under player-boss Gareth Ainsworth.
Rodman, meanwhile, managed the Minstermen’s sole shot on target in the 89th minute after Jason Walker had blasted over the best chance of a consolation in front of a gaping goal.
It was a depressing day for the club and an unwell Mills, although the fixture was never going to be as easy as a glance at the League Two table might have suggested prior to kick off.
The Wanderers are displaying title-winning form having won nine of their last 13 league games to climb up to 11th in the standings from a position at the foot of the table in mid-November. Nevertheless, the ease of their latest success did not reflect well on the Minstermen.
Kerr set the tone for the afternoon when, after just two minutes, he gave the ball away to Morgan in his own penalty box and then tripped the Wycombe striker as he prepared to shoot at Michael Ingham’s goal.
It was no shock when referee Michael Bull pointed to the spot, but a little surprising that Kerr did not suffer further punishment.
Morgan made no mistake from 12 yards, though, when he sidefooted firmly to Ingham’s left.
Buoyed by their early breakthrough, Grant then shot wide for Wanderers from the edge of the box and Ingham smothered well from Sam Wood after Kerr has miskicked in the six-yard box.
Walker headed wide from a Kerr cross with City’s first goal attempt on 28 minutes but, had he beaten ’keeper Jordan Archer, his effort would have been ruled out for offside.
Moments later, Matty Blair saw a near-post chance blocked by Winfield following Curtis Obeng’s raid down the right. The City winger then snatched at a second opportunity when he had time to consider a more composed finish.
Moments later, Michael Harriman brushed aside McLaughlin and Fyfield challenges down the right flank before sending in a cross that Grant headed over.
When a McLaughlin throw was cleared at the other end, a long ball out of defence then saw Morgan tease a back-pedalling Jack O’Connell before his low shot was kept out by Ingham.
On the stroke of half-time, more slipshod defending saw City fall further behind. Fyfield appeared to have two nibbles at Grant as he ran at the Minstermen’s left-back – the second seeing him inadvisedly grab out at the winger’s shoulder.
The referee’s assistant deemed the contact worthy of a second spot kick that Morgan duly drove down the centre of the goal with Ingham diving to his left again.
With the Minstermen having failed to net more than once in a game during their last six fixtures, a comeback never really looked on the cards and Mills’ team went on to endure a fourth consecutive match without a goal from open play.
The City boss tried to precipitate a change in attacking fortunes with the twin introduction of Ashley Chambers and Rodman for Potts and McLaughlin leading to a switch from 4-1-3-2 to 4-2-4. O’Connell subsequently headed wide from a Walker corner but the home side extended their lead on 59 minutes.
Midfield anchorman Dan Parslow failed to control Rodman’s firm pass inside 40 yards from goal and Grant capitalised fully, sprinting into the visitors’ penalty box before side- stepping a Chris Smith challenge and beating Ingham from eight yards.
At the other end, Rodman sat the ball up nicely for Walker from the right by-line but City’s nine-goal top scorer volleyed into the dismayed away end eight yards in front of an inviting net.
Wycombe substitute Bruno Andrade beat Chambers and Fyfield too easily down the right flank before delivering a cross that a sliding Morgan could not convert at the far post.
Winfield, though, completed the rout on 78 minutes, heading a Josh Scowen corner against the bar before rising highest again to meet a second flag kick from the same player and this time finding Ingham’s bottom right-hand corner.
As the clock ticked down, Rodman drove a chance wide from 15 yards and forced Archer into overdue action from a similar distance after fellow sub David McDaid’s forward pass.
It was too little, too late, though, as City fell another point closer to the dreaded drop zone.
Wycombe 4 (Morgan 3 pen, 45 pen; Grant 59; Winfield 78), York City 0
Michael Ingham 7
STAR MAN – made a couple of decent first-half saves, but left exposed for the goals.
Curtis Obeng 6
Can clearly provide attacking impetus down the right with more confidence.
Chris Smith 5
Caught a little flat-footed for Wycombe’s third goal.
Jack O’Connell 6
Stuck to task, but always going to find stopping Winfield tough at set pieces.
Jamal Fyfield 4
Tackling lacked conviction and disappointed defensively.
Dan Parslow 5
Anchored well in the first half, but mistake contributed to the hosts’ third goal.
Scott Kerr 4
Nothing seemed to come off for the vice-captain on an unfortunate day.
Michael Potts 4
Could not get close enough to the frontmen to have an influence on the game.
Paddy McLaughlin 4
Struggled to drive the team forward from the middle of the pitch.
Jason Walker 4
Could not get the ball to stick up front, strayed offside and missed a sitter.
Matty Blair 5
Form has deserted him at a time when his team needs him most.
Subs: Ashley Chambers 5 – quiet (for Potts, 46), Alex Rodman 7 – lively (for McLaughlin, 46), David McDaid 5 – peripheral (for Kerr, 61). Not used: Musselwhite, Reed, Challinor, Allan.
Jordan Archer, Michael Harriman, Anthony Stewart, Dave Winfield, Charles Dunne, Joel Grant (Bruno Andrade, 63), Stuart Lewis, Josh Scowen, Sam Wood, Dean Morgan (Jo Kuffour, 77), Matt McClure (Gareth Ainsworth, 79). Subs not used: Lee Harrison, Leon Johnson, Matt Spring, Marvin McCoy.
Star man: Grant – provided the attacking unpredictability City crave.
Referee: Michael Bull (Essex).
Rating: 6/10 – grew unnecessarily over-fussy with his lectures late in the game.
Booked: Morgan 67, Scowen 75.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 3,383 (302 from City).
Shots on target: Wycombe 8, City 1.
Shots off target: Wycombe 6, City 5.
Corners: Wycombe 8, City 5.
Fouls conceded: Wycombe 17, City 10.
Offsides: Wycombe 3, City 4.