ALL the pre-match talk might have been about “Dyer here” but York City’s bad runs came to an end last night with the penalty shoot-out Setanta Shield victory over Mansfield.
The Minstermen left it late but Mark Greaves’ deflected header – in the fourth minute of stoppage time – prevented Colin Walker’s side from enduring a fourth game without finding the net.
It also helped the City boss overcome Billy McEwan – his predecessor – at the fourth attempt, following a hat-trick of win-less matches against the Stags this season.
Perhaps most satisfying, though, was a return of 11 shots on target (not including four impressive spot-kicks) following two matches in which the Minstermen had only forced one save from the opposition goalkeeper.
New striker Bruce Dyer had long since exited the action before Simon Rusk converted the winning effort from 12 yards, but the former million-pound man displayed a fortitude with his back to goal and a sureness in possession that helped set the tone for an improved attacking performance from City.
Steven Hogg and Andy McWilliams, also making their first starts of the season, played crucial roles as well.
Former Manchester United trainee Hogg showed several moments of genuine class, most impressively when he pirouetted elegantly past a bemused Gavin Hurren midway through the first half.
The tenacious McWilliams, meanwhile, gave a reminder that the rested Mark Robinson has strong competition for his left wing-back role.
An under-pressure Walker also deserves credit for tactical changes that saw his side switch from the 3-5-2 starting line-up, with Greaves as the left-side centre-back, to 4-4-2 and then 4-3-3 in the second half.
Mansfield did, admittedly, leave out key players for the third round tie but still fielded a strong side with one-time City loan target Emile Sinclair, who opened the scoring 42 seconds after the interval, a constant threat with his explosive pace.
The Minstermen had earlier made just as purposeful a start to the first half with Ben Purkiss sprinting down the right flank and providing a cross that Onome Sodje headed wide of goal after just 17 seconds.
Dyer then forced a low save from Paddy Gamble after muscling past Stags defender Alan O’Hare while, at the other end, Michael Ingham had the confidence to watch a dangerous Alex Jeannin free-kick bend wide.
On 11 minutes, David McGurk saw a close-range effort cleared off the line following a Purkiss corner before being outstripped by on-loan Nottingham Forest striker Sinclair and looking on as Ingham saved at his near-post.
Hogg tested Gamble from long range moments later while Gavin Hurren somehow headed against the roof of the David Longhurst Stand when picked out in the six-yard box by an excellent Jeannin cross.
On 43 minutes, McWilliams was denied a first senior goal when his edge-of-the-box sidefooted volley from Purkiss’ deep cross sailed over Gamble but hit the crossbar.
Dyer also went close on the stroke of half-time, heading wide at the near post following Purkiss’ inswinging free-kick from the right.
Just as in last week’s FA Cup replay at Field Mill, however, Mansfield forged ahead early in the second half when Sinclair raced clear of a sleeping City defence and won a chase with Ingham to reach Aaron O’Connor’s through ball first.
Sinclair then poked the ball into the City keeper’s bottom right-hand corner.
Shortly afterwards, O’Connor should have doubled the visitors’ advantage when, like Sinclair, the former Grays forward burst clear on goal down the right channel.
This time, though, O’Connor dragged his shot wastefully wide.
The Minstermen were unfortunate not to level the scores on 67 minutes when Jeannin first cleared an acrobatic overhead kick by Sodje off the line and then repeated the trick for Adam Boyes’ follow-up effort.
Ingham, meanwhile, pushed a 25-yard Arnold effort behind for a corner and Stallard headed a great chance over from close range before the City ’keeper kept his side in the competition in the third minute of stoppage time.
Sinclair embarked on a powerful 50-yard run that took him into the heart of the home penalty box but he was denied a second goal by Ingham’s fine reflex save.
Seconds later, the City keeper was charging up the other end of the pitch for Hogg’s last-gasp corner.
His presence seemed to unsettle the Stags defence as well with Greaves’ eight-yard header brushing off a defender.
The most notable action in the first period of extra-time saw Ingham somehow escape a red card and any form of punishment when he appeared to smother Sinclair’s shot with his hands 30 yards from goal after the sprightly striker had sprung the City offside trap.
In the second period, Boyes went closest to winning the tie ahead of penalties, shooting wide from ten yards.
Fellow substitute Craig Farrell was first up for the shoot-out but dragged a poor effort wide of Gamble’s right-hand post and will now in all likelihood relinquish his status as the club’s spot-kick specialist having also failed to net at Wrexham.
Stallard, though, looked sillier when his attempt at emulating Zinedine Zidane’s famously-deft World Cup rebounded back off the woodwork.
Teenage Boyes sidefooted confidently into Gamble’s bottom left-hand corner to put City ahead and Ingham then saved Jeannin’s weak effort in the same direction.
Sodje sidefooted down the middle as Gamble dived left before Jonathan D’Laryea sent Ingham the wrong way. A cool Hogg sidefooted firmly into the roof of the net next while Hurren placed his shot to Ingham’s left.
Rusk though kept his composure to fire firmly to Gamble’s right and put the Minstermen into tomorrow’s fourth round draw.
York City 1 (Greaves 90), Mansfield Town 1 (Sinclair 46)
After extra time, City won 4-2 on penalties
City: Michael Ingham 8, Ben Purkiss 8, Danny Parslow 8, David McGurk 7, Andy McWilliams 8, Steven Hogg 8, Mark Greaves 8, Simon Rusk 8, Simon Russell 7, Onome Sodje 7, Bruce Dyer 7.
Substitutions: Craig Farrell for Russell (51,7), Adam Boyes for Dyer (64,8), Gavin Rothery for Purkiss (78,7)
Subs not used: Mimms, Wilkinson
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: Hogg – a debut display that provided great promise for his City future.
Mansfield: Paddy Gamble, Chris Wood, Alan O’Hare, Maxine Chanot, Alex Jeannin, Emile Sinclair, Gavin Hurren, Adnan Ahmed (Jonathan D’Laryea, 60), Nathan Arnold (Jamie McGhee, 78), Mark Stallard, Aaron O’Connor (Nick Langford, 72).
Subs: Lewis Trimmer, Luke Herriott.
Yellow cards: None.
Shots on target: York 11, Mansfield 8
Shots off target: York 8, Mansfield 8
Corners: York 3, Mansfield 6
Fouls conceded: York 8, Mansfield 17
Offsides: York 7, Mansfield 5
Referee: Shaun Procter-Green (Lincolnshire).
Rating: generally reasonable although Mansfield will feel aggrieved at four minutes of stoppage time after three signalled.
Attendance: 608 (44 from Mansfield).
Turn of the match: Hogg’s graceful manoeuvre that left Gavin Hurren looking like the famous Cruyff turn victim.
Save of the match: Ingham’s parry from Sinclair that was swiftly followed by Greaves’ equaliser.
City player watch: Steven Hogg
Goal attempts on target: 2
Goal attempts off target: 1
Blocked goal attempts: 0
Passes to own player: 19
Passes to opposition: 13
Crosses to own player: 1
Crosses to opposition: 8
Pass completion rate: 48.8 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 3
Dribbles ball lost: 4
Dribble completion rate: 42.9 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 1
Fouls won: 2
Fouls conceded: 3
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: A debut littered with moments of genuine quality. Pass success rate was low but that was more to do with the degree of difficulty. He displayed great vision, as well as an eye for goal and his match fitness will have benefited from two hours of football. Also despatched penalty brilliantly.