PRE-SEASON is all about build-up and momentum and York City – buoyed by landing long-time target Michael Gash – showed they are right on track after an impressive 2-0 win over Hartlepool.
Second half goals from Levi Mackin and Jimmy Jackson, who both started on the bench, were merited reward for a spirited performance that markedly grew in assurance after the first 30 minutes.
With new striking recruit Gash watching from the stands, City laboured up front for the opening third of the game.
Though the central midfield axis of Alex Lawless and Neil Barrett were comfortable in possession there was precious little penetration and too often they were out-muscled in physical challenges by their Pool counterparts Jon-Andre Fredriksen and Antony Sweeney.
The feistier elements of the home midfield were provided out on the left by Andy Ferrell. His constant harrying of foes and willingness to support team-mates helped City gain a foothold, with Ferrell augmented by left-back James Meredith’s eager backing.
Meredith was a part of a solid City back-line, which had to be on alert in the early stages as the visitors carved out shooting opportunities for both Leon McSweeney and Fredriksen.
However, City goalkeeper Michael Ingham was equal to both efforts, his low drive to deflect away McSweeney’s grass-cutter the most impressive stop.
A superb interception from Ben Purkiss on the edge of his own area initiated a fluent counter-raid in which Michael Rankine swept an inviting pass out to Adam Smith. But no sooner had the winger whipped the ball past left-back Andrew Hartley, he was sent sprawling by a hack which prompted lengthy treatment and his eventual substitution.
The subsequent reshuffle which saw Mackin come into the centre and Lawless move wide right beefed up the City approach.
And seven minutes from half-time the home crowd came close to heralding a deadlock-breaker when Purkiss’ first-time cross arced menacingly into the six-yard box, where Rankine rose in front of his marker to glance fractionally wide.
Rankine was showing far more pep up front than his partner in attacking crime, Richard Pacquette, though to be fair to both they were stymied by a lack of quality service and the rugged approach of the visitors’ rearguard.
Further City changes were rung at half-time, Alan O’Hare going into the heart of defence alongside David McGurk and Richard Brodie summoned to attack in place of the subdued Pacquette.
Brodie was to have almost an immediate impact. Less than ten minutes into the second half, he teased a ball from Ferrell into the path of Mackin, who despatched a low left-foot drive sweeter than a Rowntree’s fruit pastille into the Hartlepool net. It was an exquisite finish to a class move.
Mackin’s presence galvanised the home midfield, especially Ferrell, who is fast becoming a terrace favourite for his all-bristling style.
Brodie too offered a far more potent force up front to the benefit of team-mates breaking ever faster from midfield as well as providing greater support to Rankine, now winning a greater percentage of high balls.
Twice from impish inswinging corners delivered by Ferrell, Rankine’s aerial power terrorised the Pool rearguard, who were having a much more uncomfortable time.
Such was Rankine’s improved contribution – his chasing of lost causes drew appreciation from the home crowd – that he was given a well deserved acclamation for a tireless shift as he was substituted.
In contrast to the steady start Pool enjoyed at the outset of the match, their forward forays were easily repelled and all they had to show was an ambitious Dean Austin free-kick straight into the midriff of the largely untroubled Ingham.
Increasingly City grew more confident, switching the direction of play neatly leaving Hartlepool the more ragged.
City came close to carving open a second when Brodie foxed his defender in dummying a speared pass by Purkiss three minutes from time and Ferrell skipped into the space, his cross bound for substitute Jackson until a defender struck out a foot to divert it for a corner.
Another corner was forced in rapid succession and from it fellow sub O’Hare was left unmarked to power in a header which, though saved by goalkeeper Scott Flinders, Jackson pounced to drill in the rebound for a second goal. It was the perfect finale for the Minstermen and thoroughly deserved for an improved second-half show.
York City: Ingham (Mimms 80), Purkiss, Meredith (McWilliams 61), Parslow (O’Hare 46), McGurk, Smith (Mackin 35), Ferrell, Barrett (Russell 73), Lawless, Pacquette (Brodie 46), Rankine (Jackson 73). Subs (not used): Sangare.
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin, Hartley, Fredriksen (Jones 72), Collins (Lamploe 32), Liddle, McSweeney, Sweeney (Rowell 72), Behan (Greulich 68), Boyd (Mackay 46), Monkhouse (Foley 72). Subs (not used): Cook.
Referee: Jon Moss.
Attendance: 764 (169 from Hartlepool).