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Prospect of a Wembley outing in the FA Trophy final provides a welcome fillip for York City
IT cannot gloss over a poor league campaign and certainly must not distract from the continued battle against relegation.
The very real prospect of a Wembley final, however, provides a thrilling fillip for even the most embittered of York City fans and the estimated £300,000 rewards would also ease some of the financial pressure on club owners JM Packaging.
It has been a long and hard two seasons since Billy McEwan’s entertaining side failed in their play-off bid to secure promotion back to the Football League in 2006/7.
A 2-0 FA Trophy semi-final, first leg victory at AFC Telford United, however, means Martin Foyle’s Blue Square Premier strugglers are on the verge of emulating the likes of Minstermen legends Dean Kiely, Paul Barnes and Wayne Hall and becoming only the second side in the club’s history to run out at the hallowed home of English football.
The conscientious Foyle should also take great credit for the part he played in Saturday’s success, displaying impressive tactical acumen at the Buck’s Head stadium.
Following two spying missions on the Shropshire side, Foyle felt short corners might prove the home team’s undoing.
Sure enough, ten minutes into Saturday’s tie, Simon Rusk had scored his first goal in 50 matches for the Minstermen after exchanging five-yard passes from a flag kick with team-mate Andy McWilliams.
Then, early in the second half, with Telford finally threatening the visitors’ goal, the City boss sent on David McGurk, only benched because of the fine form of fellow centre-backs Shaun Pejic and Danny Parslow, in place of teenage striker Adam Boyes.
City switched from 4-3-3 to the 3-5-2 formation that probably best suits a squad with a surplus of competent centre halves, few natural wide men and forward-thinking full backs in Ben Purkiss and Mark Robinson.
Twelve minutes later, Purkiss had scored the second goal of the game and Robinson was also denied by a goalline clearance from Stuart Whitehead before the final whistle.
In fact, the only regret, with Richard Brodie and Daniel McBreen also missing the target with excellent chances, must be that the game was not put beyond all doubt ahead of Saturday’s second leg at KitKat Crescent.
City made a positive start against a Telford team deprived of the services of eight senior players through a combination of injury, ineligibility and suspension with McBreen’s 15-yard half-volley, following a forward pass by Pejic, flashing wide in only the second minute.
The lively Rusk was then denied by a near-post block after Boyes and McBreen had combined down the right flank.
From the resulting corner, though, City opened the scoring.
Armed with the advice that Telford normally send only one player across to deal with short corners, Rusk fed McWilliams and then ran around the home defender to collect a return pass.
Spotting a gap at the near post, the former Northwich midfielder then caught out home ’keeper Ryan Young with an angled 20-yard drive to break his City duck.
The Minstermen should have doubled their advantage on 15 minutes when Brodie headed wide from six yards after McBreen had helped on a Purkiss long throw.
Boyes also tested Young from 25 yards after Rusk had nudged the ball into his path on 35 minutes and, seconds later, Brodie forced an acrobatic save from the Bucks ’keeper with a trademark, long-range, dipping volley.
Before the break, however, a blatant trip by the ex-Newcastle Benfield striker probably should have been punished with the yellow card that would have seen him miss Saturday’s second leg, but Brodie successfully feigned injury to escape censure.
Telford managed just one first-half attempt at Michael Ingham’s goal and even that effort was unintentional with Jon Adams’ overhit free-kick catching a strong wind.
Brodie passed up another great opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet early in the second half after seizing on a loose pass by Telford defender Gavin Cowan.
The England ‘C’ international skipped past last man Whitehead but a stumble allowed covering centre back Indy Khela to slide in with a goal-saving tackle.
A decent Adams strike was saved by Ingham on 52 minutes and Robinson’s clearance then cannoned wide off Luke Moore from eight yards.
In response, Foyle sent on McGurk for Boyes, adding assurance to the back line and pushing Purkiss and Robinson further forward. Moments later, a strong run by Rusk ended in a Brodie shot that was parried by Young only for McBreen to clear the crossbar with the net gaping.
City eventually claimed the second goal their dominance deserved, however, when Robinson’s throw-in was met by McBreen at the near post.
Substitute Onome Sodje then performed a couple of kick ups as he looked to turn his marker eight yards out only for Purkiss to ghost in the box unnoticed, steal the ball off him and place a simple, sidefooted shot into Young’s bottom left-hand corner.
Telford gamely refused to crumble with Moore firing high from the edge of the box and then seeing a legitimate effort disallowed after finding the net when Ingham appeared to let a Martin Naylor long throw slip through his fingers without any interference from the opposition.
The City ’keeper then made an over-elaborate diving save from Andy Brown after Robinson’s drive was cleared off the line by Whitehead at the other end.
Late on, McBreen and Sodje missed the target with good opportunities on the break and a grounded Foyle was left hoping such profligacy won’t be rued in five days’ time.
Telford United 0, York City 2
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Ben Purkiss 8, Shaun Pejic 8, Danny Parslow 8, Mark Robinson 8, Levi Mackin 7, Andy McWilliams 8, Simon Rusk 8, Richard Brodie 7, Adam Boyes 7, Daniel McBreen 7.
Substitutions: David McGurk (for Boyes, 55) 7 Onome Sodje (for Brodie, 66) 7 Mark Greaves (for Rusk, 76)
Subs not used: Mimms, Russell.
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: Rusk – continued his renaissance as a roving midfielder and set the tone for victory.
Telford United: Ryan Young, Jimmy Turner (Martin Naylor, 64), Indy Khela, Stuart Whitehead, Gavin Cowan, James Meredith (Simon Forsdick, 82), Jon Adams, Liam Blakeman, Carl Rodgers, Andy Brown, Luke Moore.
Subs not used: Steve Jagielka, Scott Embrey, Dean Williams.
Yellow cards: Brown 40, Whitehead 72, Greaves 89.
Shots on target: Telford 4, York 6
Shots off target: Telford 4, York 8
Corners: Telford 4, York 4
Fouls conceded: Telford 7, York 16
Offsides: Telford 3, York 2
Referee: S Cook (Woking). Rating: Telford might have some understandable grievances.
Shot of the match: Rusk’s tenth minute opening strike.
Save of the match: Young’s athletic fingertip effort to deny Brodie.
Mistake of the match: The loose pass by home defender Cowan that Brodie failed to capitalise on.
City player watch: Andy McWilliams
Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 0
Blocked goal attempts: 0
Passes to own player: 9
Passes to opposition: 4
Crosses to own player: 1
Crosses to opposition: 0
Pass completion rate: 71.4 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 0
Dribbles ball lost: 1
Dribble completion rate: 0 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 1
Fouls won: 1
Fouls conceded: 4
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: Converted left-back McWilliams staked a claim to keep his starting place in midfield with a combative and enthusiastic performance in place of the cup-tied Christian Smith. McWilliams made a nuisance of himself as is illustrated by his six tackles and four fouls, although he was slightly fortunate not to be shown a yellow card. His distribution was adequate although, with no shots on goals and just one cross in 90 minutes, he was a more destructive than constructive presence.