FOR Simon Rusk, it must have felt like he’d never been away.
A booing Bootham Crescent became familiar to Rusk last season as he and his then York City team-mates served up sub-standard football and flirted dangerously with relegation from the Blue Square Premier.
Rusk’s return with new club Crawley Town saw his every touch greeted with the same derision but, after been on the receiving end of Saturday’s comprehensive 2-0 defeat, he must have sensed a mood shift among David Longhurst Stand regulars towards his City successors.
Cheers appear to have replaced the jeers which, assuming the Minstermen maintain the standards of the last two games, should now be reserved for unpopular visiting players and match officials – the natural order at any successful club.
Contrary to his programme notes, manager Martin Foyle need not worry about the local media getting behind his team either, if the North Yorkshire outfit wake up from the slumber of the last two seasons.
The signs are certainly encouraging. Victory over Crawley represented the first time City have clocked up a hat-trick of consecutive home wins in three-and-a-half years.
Back then, the attacking talents of Andy Bishop and Clayton Donaldson were terrorising visiting defences. The early understanding Richard Brodie and Michael Gash have forged suggests a partnership that might just prove as promising.
Brodie and Gash have only started three games together but took their combined tally to six goals in those fixtures. Both got on the scoresheet within the first ten minutes against Crawley and could have added further goals during a dominant and entertaining opening half.
Only Cambridge’s Chris Holroyd and Danny Kedwell, of AFC Wimbledon, have now scored more Blue Square Premier goals this season than Brodie, whose sixth-minute penalty took his tally to 21 in 38 matches since Foyle’s arrival at the club.
The spot kick was a reward for typically persistent play by Brodie, who capitalised on hesitancy from Crawley defender Dominic Collins to reach a hopeful ball into the box first and then tumbled down after tangling with the on-loan teenage Preston defender.
His penalty was confidently sidefooted into Simon Rayner’s bottom right-hand corner as the Crawley ’keeper dived in the opposite direction.
Gash illustrated his nous and class shortly afterwards when he collected the ball with his back to goal after Brodie had helped on a James Meredith throw-in.
Eight yards out, he swivelled swiftly to beat Simon Rayner at his near post with a low drive.
This victory did not owe everything to the performances of Gash and Brodie however. Foyle also appears to have found the ideal blend and balance in midfield.
Adam Smith’s foraging down the right wing is complemented by Andy Ferrell’s ability to contain opponents on the opposite flank, while Alex Lawless was tremendous as the team’s central anchor man with Neil Barrett a tidy presence in front of him.
Such was Lawless’ anticipation in the first half that he never seemed more than five yards away from the ball and was always a willing recipient before picking the right pass to preserve possession.
The former Forest Green utility man was the architect of City’s first chance just 58 seconds into the match, releasing Smith down the right to cross for Ferrell, whose left-footed drive whistled inches wide from the edge of the box.
Brodie and Gash, though, ensured the Minstermen were rewarded for wave after wave of early attacks.
Brodie should have also added a third goal when he breached the visitors’ defence again but dragged his shot wide. Smith and Brodie then missed the target from 20 yards in quick succession and, on 25 minutes, Gash went close with a flashing drive after his striking partner’s air shot acted as the perfect decoy following right-back Ben Purkiss’ raid to the by-line.
An overwhelmed Crawley, who were suffering injury problems but still fielded a side smattered with experience, managed their first goal attempt in the 35th minute.
Right-winger Adam Barton, normally a centre-back, saw his 25-yard attempt deflect over for a corner, which he duly delivered on to the head of tricky, on-loan winger Kieran Djilali, who headed over at the far post.
City fans celebrated a hefty challenge on Rusk by Ferrell, who was cautioned. Rusk then drove over from the edge of the box after Brodie had seen another shot turned around a post by Rayner.
City eased off in the second half but restricted Crawley to two Danny Forrest efforts – one going wide of Michael Ingham’s near post and the other forcing him into his first save on 78 minutes.
By then, fellow striker Jefferson Louis had departed the action after being supremely shackled by City skipper Daniel Parslow.
Alongside Parslow, Djoumin Sangare compensated for occasionally questionable positional sense with enthusiasm and a rapid recovery rate to help ensure a third clean sheet of the season.
At the other end, Ferrell’s outstreched leg went agonisingly close to converting a low Smith cross and Barrett’s wickedly bending 25-yard shot dipped just over a well-beaten Rayner’s crossbar.
The lack of a third goal did not detract from an impressive afternoon on a slick surface however.
With David McGurk approaching full fitness, talented midfield pair Craig Nelthorpe and Levi Mackin waiting in the wings for their chances and target man Michael Rankine unable to command a starting place despite being voted The Press’ Player of the Month for August, the outlook off the pitch looks encouragingly healthy too.
York City 2 (Brodie pen 6; Gash 10), Crawley Town 0
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Ben Purkiss 7, Djoumin Sangare 7, Daniel Parslow 8, James Meredith 7, Adam Smith 7, Alex Lawless 9, Neil Barrett 7, Andy Ferrell 7, Michael Gash 8, Richard Brodie 8.
Substitutions: Levi Mackin (for Ferrell, 85).
Subs not used: Mimms, O’Hare, Nelthorpe, Rankine.
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: Lawless – was two yards quicker in the brain and on the ground than any of his team-mates or the opposition in a terrific first half.
Crawley: Simon Rayner, Simon Rusk, Adam Quinn, Dominic Collins (Thomas Pinault, 46), Sam Rents, Adam Barton, Eddie Hutchinson, Chris Carruthers (Barry Cogan, 65), Kieran Djilali, Jefferson Louis (Daniel Powell, 74), Danny Forrest. Subs not used: Lewis Killeen, Michael Malcolm.
Yellow cards: Collins 6, Lawless 14, Ferrell 37, Quinn 68, Hutchinson 72.
Shots on target: York 3 Crawley 2.
Shots off target: York 9 Crawley 5.
Corners: York 5 Crawley 3.
Fouls conceded: York 17 Crawley 11.
Offsides: York 4 Crawley 1.
Referee: Mark Heywood (Northwich). Rating: failed to award a foul against Crawley other than the penalty in the first half. A fair deal of remonstrating.
Attendance: 2,139 (38 Crawley fans).
Block of the match: Parslow threw himself into a first-half shot by Louis in the penalty box to prevent an on-target goal attempt.
Head to head: Andy Ferrell v Simon Rusk
Despite lining up against each other, former Minsterman Rusk, playing at right-back, rarely came into direct combat with City’s left-sided midfield enforcer Ferrell.
On the one occasion they did clash, Rusk was left in a heap after Ferrell’s bone-crunching 37th-minute challenge that earned him a caution.
Both players had chances to score with Ferrell drilling a firm, first-time effort wide early on and Rusk driving over from the edge of the box.