HAD Corby Town’s Steelmen showed a sharper cutting edge at Bootham Crescent on Saturday, then York City might have been left to concentrate on the league for the final three months of 2009/10.
Instead, Andy Ferrell’s dubiously-awarded 40th-minute penalty secured a 1-0 win that means the Minstermen must now weigh up the pros and cons of progressing any further in the competition.
With City now just two tantalising ties away from a second successive visit to Wembley in the FA Trophy final, the tournament takes on a financial importance, clearly not lost on chairman Jason McGill judging by manager Martin Foyle’s post-match comments.
Both, however, will be wary of the impact reaching the semi-finals might have on the bigger prize – possible promotion to the Football League.
Fixture congestion would be unavoidable although, in theory, with 21 senior players and a promising youth team to call upon, the club should be capable of sustaining a challenge on two fronts.
City might need to up their game, however, if they are to make the Trophy’s last four having ridden their luck against Corby, just as they had in previous rounds against fellow part-timers Newport County and Hinckley United.
A pitch better suited to beach volleyball than Blue Square Premier football admittedly did not help the home side’s cause.
The Minstermen’s flair players, such as Adam Smith and Alex Lawless, were always going to find the going tough on a heavily- sanded surface and the game degenerated into an ugly spectacle as a consequence.
Neither side managed a shot until the 18th minute and then Michael Gash, who coped better than most in the conditions, failed to unduly trouble Mark Osborn with a 25-yard effort that was going wide of the visiting ’keeper’s right-hand post.
A couple of minutes later, skipper Daniel Parslow’s cross from the right found Gash and his shot struck David Deeney on the hand.
Referee Andy Madley, displaying a questionable interpretation of deliberate handball, pointed to the spot and Ferrell, standing in for his suspended buddy Richard Brodie, planted the penalty confidently to Osborn’s left.
Half-time saw both sets of supporters erupt into a spontaneous round of applause as wreaths were laid in the penalty box in a touching tribute to the late Corby-born former City striker David Longhurst.
Minutes after the restart, Richard Pacquette’s shot on the turn forced a save from Osborn but, other than a sweetly-struck Gash volley that whistled wide and an off-target Chris Carruthers drive, the hosts rarely threatened to extend their lead.
Corby, meanwhile, went close to an equaliser on several occasions.
Brett Solkhon fired an angled drive straight at Michael Ingham on 53 minutes and Leon Mettam also volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
Luke Graham then survived a strong penalty scare when he upended Mettam in the box, but Ossett official Madley awarded the visitors a free-kick for an earlier infringement instead.
Former Scunthorpe defender Chris Hope’s swerving free-kick dipped narrowly over just before the hour mark and an away goal seemed inevitable on 77 minutes as Leon Hibbert looped the ball over a stranded Ingham but his effort bounced inches wide.
Five chances in the last five minutes then led to an anxious finale for City.
First, Deeney’s deflected 15-yard drive flashed across the face of goal and then veteran striker Jason Lee missed the target with his head from the subsequent corner.
On 89 minutes, Ingham made a terrific diving save to prevent substitute Tommy Jaszczun finding his bottom right-hand corner with a curling, edge-of-the-box attempt.
There was also still time for Solkhon to hook the ball over from three yards out and for Steve Towers to fire into the away end with a stoppage-time free-kick.
Corby deserved a replay at least but City are now free to resume their league challenge at Histon tomorrow night rather than travelling to the Rockingham Triangle.
York City 1 (Farrell, pen 40
Corby Town 0
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire
Michael Ingham 8
Daniel Parslow 7
Luke Graham 7
David McGurk 8
James Meredith 7
Adam Smith 6
Levi Mackin 7
Alex Lawless 6
Andy Ferrell 7
Michael Gash 7
Richard Pacquette 6
City’s star man: McGurk – never put a foot wrong in the sand.
Corby: Mark Osborn, David Deeney, Phil Gulliver, Chris Hope (Tommy Jaszczun, 73), Paul Mayo, Brett Solkhon, Leon Hibbert, Steve Towers, Glenn Walker, Jason Lee, Leon Mettam (Steve Diggin 71, Jamie McGhee 85). Subs not used: Gavin Strachan, Tom Cross.
Booked: Solkhon 33, Mayo 72, Carruthers 89.
Referee: Andy Madley (Ossett). Rating: City were happy with his performance. Corby were less so.
Attendance: 2,205 (80 from Corby).
Mistake of the match: The definition of deliberate is “done on purpose; intentional”. Madley made an error if he felt that’s an accurate description of Mayo’s handball.
Save of the match: Ingham’s 89th-minute stop from Jaszczun was one of his best this season.
Shots on target: York 4 Corby 2
Shots off target: York 6 Corby 9
Corners: York 4 Corby 5
Fouls conceded: York 7 Corby 14
Offsides: York 3 Corby 3