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Lewes 1, York City 1
IT will be out of the Dripping Pan and into the mire if York City kick off next season in the manner they finished 2008/9.
A 1-1 draw at Lewes’ quaint stadium, named after the utensils monks once mined salt with on the site, represented a dismal end to a poor league campaign for the Minstermen.
Relegated since March, basement club Lewes should have proven pushovers for their full-time visitors. Fielding five teenagers, including 16-year-old lone striker Tim Rivers, the Sussex side seemed ideal opponents for a City team hoping to rack up four consecutive victories for the first time in 16 months.
Professional pride, of course, should have been incentive enough for the Minstermen in their search for another three points but, with the game a dead rubber effectively, manager Martin Foyle handed his fringe players the opportunity to win a Wembley place by making nine changes to his starting line-up.
With Adam Smith and Christian Smith both cup-tied for the FA Trophy final on May 9 and at least two positions up for grabs, it should have guaranteed a competitive Blue Square Premier finale.
After yesterday’s damp squib, though, Foyle probably left Lewes none the wiser as he contemplates who to select for the showcase clash with Stevenage.
Other than Levi Mackin and Richard Brodie, City have struggled for reliable performers in midfield and attack all season.
Nobody shone in those areas at Lewes although Steven Hogg’s quality might just place him ahead of the other contenders if he can convince Foyle of his match fitness. His fellow midfielders, the three Simons – Rusk, Russell and Brown – were simply underwhelming.
Brown is ineligible a week on Saturday, but Russell and Rusk’s places in the squad might yet come under threat from the out-of-favour Liam Shepherd and fitness doubt Andy McWilliams.
Teenager Shepherd would seem a stronger candidate to replace the sorely-missed Adam Smith on the flanks.
In attack, Foyle gave youth-team coach Steve Torpey his full debut at the age of 38 to spare Brodie the risk of suspension but, alongside him, Onome Sodje did not produce the kind of performance that demanded he would be a better partner for City’s top scorer under the arch than Australia-bound Daniel McBreen.
An awful first half saw Joe Keehan boot the ball out of the ground with the first chance of the match after a promising run to the edge of City’s penalty box.
Sodje then hooked over from the edge of the box before Hogg drilled a free-kick narrowly wide from 30 yards.
City ’keeper Josh Mimms made the game’s first save in first-half stoppage time when he gathered a weak 20-yard shot from tidy Gillingham work experience signing Luke Rooney.
From Mimms’ resulting punt forward, home stopper Rikki Banks kept out Sodje’s angled drive at his near post.
The second half was equally devoid of quality with Sodje having two unconvincing attempts at goal before making way for Christian Smith on 74 minutes.
Brodie, on for Torpey, failed to trouble Banks from 25 yards with his first opportunity and Mark Greaves missed the target with a far post header after being picked out by Hogg’s corner.
Stand-in skipper Greaves made amends on 80 minutes when he bundled the ball over the line after Banks failed to hold a glancing Brodie header following Mark Robinson’s left-wing cross.
In a topsy-turvy afternoon for Greaves, though, he conceded the free-kick that led to the equaliser.
The Minstermen failed to clear Rooney’s 87th-minute free-kick and Sam Fisk headed for goal.
His effort looked like it might creep inside Mimms’ left-hand post, but Keehan threw himself at the ball to head in from a yard.
Rusk could have still snatched victory for City, but his weak header from Adam Boyes’ cross lacked the pace and direction to beat Banks and, in stoppage time, he volleyed wide of the near post.
The draw proved enough to lift City into 17th place, matching the lowest finishing position in the club’s professional era.
A final safety margin of eight points also flatters a City side who were entrenched in the bottom four just ten days ago and only made survival certain in a shaky performance at Weymouth during their penultimate fixture.
After Wembley, it is clear Foyle will need to mastermind a rebuilding programme similar to that engineered by Billy McEwan four years ago to reverse the club’s fortunes.
Lewes 1 (Keehan 87), York City 1 (Greaves 80)
City: Josh Mimms 6, Ben Purkiss 6, Mark Greaves 6, Shaun Pejic 6, Mark Robinson 6, Simon Russell 5, Steven Hogg 6, Simon Rusk 5, Simon Brown 5, Steve Torpey 5, Onome Sodje 5.
Substitutions: Brodie (for Torpey, 62) 6, Boyes (for Russell, 63) 6, C Smith (for Sodje, 74).
Subs not used: A Smith, Ingham.
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 – solid at the back, even though clearances were sometimes wayward on difficult pitch.
Lewes: Rikki Banks, Ryan Timms, Danny Cullip, Anthony Barness, Sam Fisk, Ryan Storrie (David Wheeler, 46), Luke Rooney, Joe Keehan, Andy Wilkinson (Ross Sutton, 79), Michael Standing (Fred Foreman, 46), Tim Rivers.
Subs not used: Louis Bell, Grant Hall.
Bookings: Wheeler 71.
Shots on target: Lewes 3, York 6
Shots off target: Lewes 2, York 5
Corners: Lewes 0, York 4
Fouls conceded: Lewes 11, York 11
Offsides: Lewes 1, York 3
Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex).
Rating: gave a sound display, although rarely put under scrutiny due to uncompetitive nature of the game.
Cross of the match: Robinson’s left-wing centre for the goal was one of the few dangerous deliveries.
Miss of the match: Rusk’s late header which lacked the pace and power to beat Banks.
Shot of the match: The 30-yard free- kick that saw Hogg go close in the first half.
City player watch: Steve Torpey
Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 0
Blocked goal attempts: 0
Passes to own player: 7
Passes to opposition: 7
Crosses to own player: 0
Crosses to opposition: 0
Pass completion rate: 50 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 0
Dribbles ball lost: 3
Dribble completion rate: 0 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 0
Fouls won: 1
Fouls conceded: 1
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: Perhaps unsurprisingly, veteran target man Steve Torpey headed the ball more times than he kicked it before being replaced by Richard Brodie after 62 minutes. The former Scunthorpe striker’s distribution was a little hit and miss and he failed to manage any goal attempts, although that was largely due to a lack of quality service. Torpey also got caught in possession three times and any Wembley outing is likely to be limited to a cameo role.
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