York City 1, Grays Athletic 1 - FA Trophy, round two
CONTROVERSY is never far away when Grays Athletic defender Jamie Stuart takes on York City.
Having recently pleaded not guilty to charges of causing grievous bodily harm to Chris Beardsley during the league meeting between the two clubs back in September, Stuart was at the centre of a pivotal incident in Saturday's FA Trophy second round tie.
On this occasion, the former England under-21 international's 75th-minute offence cost his side a penalty - and ultimately victory.
Craig Farrell appeared to stumble over a sliding Stuart challenge in the visitors' 18-yard box but, when referee Jake Collin pointed to the spot, the City striker capitalised on some timely luck to claim his 13th goal of the season and move level with Onome Sodje as the club's leading marksman.
His failure to convert a one-on-one chance three minutes later, though, means the two teams will now meet again at Grays' Recreation Ground tomorrow.
Saturday's match saw the Minstermen struggle to reproduce the standards set during last weekend's high-quality encounter against Kidderminster.
Colin Walker's cause was not helped, however, by the early withdrawal of Martyn Woolford because of illness. Strikers Paul Brayson and Farrell both tried to fill the void left by Woolford in the withdrawn forward role, but midfielder Nicky Wroe appeared to represent the team's best creative hope in his absence.
Wroe, though, often operated too deep to have a significant impact until Walker switched to a 4-3-3 formation after his side fell behind and, for the fourth time in five matches, City fought back to avoid defeat.
Earlier, a lacklustre first half saw the home side struggle to break down a well-organised Grays defence that have conceded fewer goals than any side in the Blue Square Premier other than Cambridge United.
Wroe did manage a 15-yard effort that missed the target on nine minutes but, moments later, City 'keeper Tom Evans had to push behind a deflected Aaron O'Connor effort.
Home wing-back Ben Purkiss also survived strong handball appeals following a Karl Murray overhead kick, while a deft 25-yard chip by Brayson sailed over on-loan Tottenham 'keeper David Button's bar at the other end.
City started the second half with more purpose and Wroe forced Button into an early save before brushing the sidenetting with a low drive from the edge of the box.
Sodje then sidefooted straight at Button when presented with a great chance by Brayson and Grays forged ahead on 62 minutes.
City left wing-back Anthony Lloyd was robbed of possession by Andy Sambrook on the touchline after attempting to control a crossfield ball on his chest.
Play was then swept to O'Connor and his low, angled drive from ten yards beat Evans at his near post after taking a deflection off Darren Kelly.
Two minutes later, Evans saved a curling Michael Standing free-kick before Walker changed tactics.
Soon afterwards, Farrell volleyed wide from 15 yards after Sodje had headed on an Evans punt forward. Wroe then threaded through a perfectly-weighted pass to Purkiss on the right flank and his cross was controlled by Farrell who was stopped in his tracks by Stuart.
Official Collin deemed the intervention illegal and Farrell smashed his spot-kick down the middle of the goal as Button dived left. But the England under-19 stopper came out on top moments later when Farrell raced on to a Phil Turnbull through ball, standing his ground this time to keep out the former Leeds United trainee's effort.
Button also saved from Brayson and Manny Panther late on as City sought a winning goal and Sodje saw an injury-time opportunity blocked.
The Minstermen will now be counting, however, on making away advantage count as they bid for an eighth successive victory on their travels.
York City (Farrell pen 75) 1, Grays Athletic (O'Connor 60) 1
York City: Tom Evans 7, Danny Parslow 7, David McGurk 7, Darren Kelly 7, Ben Purkiss 6, Anthony Lloyd 6, Manny Panther 6, Nicky Wroe 8, Martyn Woolford 6, Onome Sodje 6, Craig Farrell 7.
Substitutions: Paul Brayson (for Woolford, 24) 6 Phil Turnbull (for Parslow, 66) 7 Darren Craddock (for Farrell, 85)
Subs not used: Mimms, McWilliams.
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: Wroe - showed confidence and quality on the ball to further stake his claim for a permanent starting place.
Grays: David Button, Andy Sambrook, Jamie Stuart, Jon Ashton, Santos Gaia, Alan Power (Neil McAfferty, 90), Karl Murray, Michael Standing, Ben Watson, Danny Kedwell, Aaron O'Connor (Colin Daniel, 70).
Subs not used: Bradley Gibbons, Jack Obersteller, Ernie Cooksey.
Yellow cards: McGurk 69.
Shots on target: York 9, Grays 6.
Shots off target: York 5, Grays 5.
Corners: York 4, Grays 6.
Fouls conceded: York 3, Grays 8.
Offsides: York 1, Grays 4.
Referee: Jake Collin (Liverpool).
Rating: Grays will feel aggrieved with two penalty decisions that went against them. Shirt-tugging also went unnoticed at times.
Attendance: 1,351 (55 from Grays).
Turn of the match: The pirouette Woolford completed while maintaining control of the ball and beating a player after accepting McGurk's throw-in.
Pass of the match: Wroe's ball that released Purkiss to cross for the incident that led to City's penalty.
City player watch: Nicky Wroe
Goal attempts on target: 1
Goal attempts off target: 2
Blocked goal attempts: 0
Passes to own player: 55
Passes to opposition: 8
Crosses to own player: 2
Crosses to opposition: 2
Pass success rate: 85.1 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 3
Dribbles ball lost: 4
Dribble success rate: 42.9 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 2
Free-kicks won: 1
Free-kicks conceded: 0
Final summary: The evidence that former Barnsley playmaker Wroe is happy to accept possession in any area of the pitch is illustrated by an unusually high pass tally. He saw a lot of the ball and his distribution was generally good. Despite playing quite deep, he was also one of City's main goal threats with three decent attempts and came close to making the scoresheet.