WHISPER it quietly, but it might be third time lucky.
Twice in the last two years, with Wembley almost in their grasp, York City have agonisingly let it slip.
Maybe this time, the third time, the Minstermen can get there – and exorcise the ghosts of Morecambe and Torquay.
This wasn’t a vintage City display. Far from it.
Havant and Waterlooville were dispatched with two moments of breathtaking quality from Daniel McBreen.
|View further images from the match>>|
A glancing header and a superbly taken half-volley illuminated what was otherwise merely a functional display.
Havant were a banana skin – a side with Cup pedigree and with a habit of knocking out their supposed betters.
But Foyle is beginning to instil some steel and resilience in this side.
McBreen doesn’t look the sort to get ruffled by much so it was no surprise the headlines over his reported move to Australian A-League side North Queensland Fury had little effect on his performance.
Maybe the prospect of going home has inspired him.
That seemed the case when he gave the Minstermen the lead on the stroke of half-time.
Mark Robinson let Simon Rusk’s throw come across him and, from the left-hand side, smashed a swerving cross on the half volley straight into the path of McBreen who, from just inside the six-yard box, glanced his header past Havant ’keeper Kevin Scriven into the right-hand corner.
It was the ideal encouragement for City following a first-half where they had laboured against physical opponents.
And who knows how it might have turned out had Gary Elphick not spurned a golden chance in the fifth minute.
Steven Cook’s long throw bounced in the box, cannoned off Levi Mackin, and fell straight to the defender, who fired his shot wide of the right hand post.
It wasn’t until the 25th minute that the Minstermen fashioned their first real chance and Richard Brodie should have done better.
With the wind swirling round KitKat Crescent, Scriven dropped Andy McWilliams’ high cross when challenged by McBreen.
But, with the goal gaping, Brodie couldn’t apply the finishing touch.
McBreen and Brodie then both headed wide, the latter from a whipped in Kyle Critchell cross, and it looked like City would be scoreless at the break until McBreen’s clinical finish gave York a crucial advantage.
It was so important because, as the first half had worn on, Havant made it pretty clear they would be happy to leave York this time with a replay.
Now forced onto the offensive after the break, they almost fell two behind when Mackin tested Scriven with a well-struck shot in the 48th minute.
Then Robinson came to the rescue.
The defender, wounded more than many by City’s FA Cup loss to Havant 15 months ago, produced a superb block close to the goal-line from Paul Booth with the Minstermen’s defence momentarily in disarray.
These were worrying moments and Craig Watkins wasn’t too far away when firing wide after catching Mackin trying to be a bit too clever close to his own box.
And Michael Ingham had to gather at the second attempt after his fingers were stung by a long range, zipping shot by Brett Poate which the City ’keeper was initially unable to hold.
Then York reasserted themselves. With ten minutes left, Adam Boyes might have done better when scuffing his shot at Scriven – following a flowing length of the field move involving Robinson, Mackin and a delightful back heel from McBreen.
They should definitely have been two up three minutes later when Onome Sodje, on as a substitute for Boyes, fluffed over the bar from six yards having been picked out following a great driving run to the touchline from Brodie.
McBreen was more lethal and, from York’s next attack, he bustled in front of Elphick and fired a delicious half-volley from 16 yards over a stranded Scriven into the net.
Sodje almost made amends for his earlier miss when rattling the crossbar with a spectacular overhead kick but, by that stage, it didn’t matter – City were already through and the prospect of Wembley draws ever closer.
York City 2, Havant & Waterlooville 0
City: Michael Ingham 7, Kyle Critchell 6, Shaun Pejic 8, Danny Parslow 6, Mark Robinson 8, Simon Rusk 6, Levi Mackin 7, Andy McWilliams 6, Adam Boyes 6, Richard Brodie 6, Daniel McBreen 8.
Substitutions: Mark Greaves (for Rusk, 68) 6 Onome Sodje (for Boyes, 82) Simon Russell (for Brodie, 90).
Subs not used: Mimms, Shepherd.
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: Pejic – an assured debut from City’s new centre-back.
Havant and Waterlooville: Kevin Scriven, Brett Poate, Jay Gasson, Gary Elphick, Steven Cook, Steven Walker (Jamie Collins, 51), Ian Simpemba, Wes Fogden, Luke Nightingale, Craig Watkins, Luke Nightingale (Robbie Martin, 81).
Subs not used: Matt Gray, Andy Rogers, Nathan Ashmore.
Yellow cards: McWilliams 17, Boyes 28, Cook 90.
Shots on target: York 5, Havant 2
Shots off target: York 7, Havant 5
Corners: City 5, Havant 7
Fouls conceded: York 8, Havant 13
Offsides: York 0, Havant 1
Referee: Gary Sutton (Lincoln).
Rating: Took a long while to call time on Havant’s aggressive tactics.
Cross of the match: Robinson’s ball for McBreen’s opening goal was sheer class.
Shot of the match: It didn’t go in, but Sodje’s overhead kick, which hit the bar, was a spectacular in its technique.
Miss of the match: Quite how Sodje missed from all of three yards when picked out by Brodie was a mystery.
City player watch: Centre-back Shaun Pejic
Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 0
Passes to own player: 3
Passes to opposition: 3
Pass completion rate: 50 per cent
Crosses to own player: 0
Crosses to opposition: 0
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 10
Fouls won: 0
Fouls conceded: 1
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: An assured display from City’s new signing. With Havant employing the aerial approach, Pejic was imperious at the back – winning 18 headers. Positionally sound, he was often in the right place at the right time, shown by his ten clearances, blocks and interceptions. Considering he has played very little football this season, getting through 90 minutes was a bonus. He adds more depth to what will be a competitive department when David McGurk and Darren Kelly return.