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York City 2, Rushden and Diamonds 0
York City goalscorer Peter Till, centre, celebrates with Michael Rankine, left, and Leon Constantine, right, in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Rushden at Bootham Crescent
THE king is dead, long live the king!
But, at least the former Leeds United forward’s decisive debut provided much-needed hope for those among the Bootham Crescent faithful still mourning the loss of last season’s 37-goal leading marksman and searching for his potential successor.
In a pivotal substitute appearance, Constantine claimed an assist for Peter Till’s opening goal and then grabbed a second for himself as City overcame last season’s play-off semi-finalists Rushden and Diamonds 2-0.
Time will obviously tell whether Constantine is to be crowned the club’s new goal king but what cannot be disputed is his impact on a game in which both sides had laboured to create chances prior to his arrival midway through Saturday’s second half.
Other than reacting smartly to smother at Rene Howe’s feet, City ’keeper Michael Ingham was not called upon to make a single save in 90 minutes.
Aside from the two goals, Diamonds net-minder Dale Roberts, meanwhile, was only required to make a couple of routine stops following weak Michael Gash headers.
Gash started alongside ex-Rushden frontman Michael Rankine in attack for City but the shot-shy opening hour only served to question once more their compatibility as striking partners despite their obvious individual merits.
While Gash’s neat lay-offs are regularly greeted with ripples of appreciative applause from the home crowd, they need to be executed further up the pitch to hurt opposing teams with midfielders committed to making well-timed bursts into the penalty box in order to be fully effective.
Rankine, meanwhile, was a great foil for Brodie when his physical presence proved a distraction for defenders, occupying their attention while the former Newcastle Benfield striker capitalised by making the kind of penetrative runs that are not a trademark of Gash’s game.
Given the timing of Brodie’s departure, just minutes before last week’s transfer deadline, City manager Martin Foyle, therefore, deserves great credit for bolstering his attacking options at such short notice.
Last week’s six-figure sale of Brodie made sense for a board struggling to cover financial losses on an annual basis.
In the face of Crawley’s sizeable bid, the club’s owners clearly could not run the risk of missing out on a transfer fee entirely or accepting a cut-price offer in January with Brodie out of contact next summer.
But the decision did Foyle few favours.
His acquisition of a striker in Constantine, who has twice scored 25 goals or more in a season for Football League clubs during the last six years, must therefore represent the best bit of business available to the City chief.
Before the 6ft 2in forward’s introduction on Saturday, a soporific first half had seen Jonathan Smith, who looked a little uncomfortable on the right side of midfield, lift an edge-of-the-box effort well over on eight minutes.
At the other end, Lewwis Spence and Ryan Charles missed the target from a similar distance.
Howe, whose power unsettled David McGurk on occasions, also teed up another chance for Charles but his eight-yard effort floated over Ingham’s crossbar.
Then, on 42 minutes, Howe bundled his way past McGurk again before sidestepping a Daniel Parslow challenge only for Ingham to be alert to the danger and snatch the ball off his toes.
The first corner of the match was won in the 47th minute but Rankine headed wide from Till’s left-wing delivery.
Till was also the provider five minutes later when Rankine’s mistimed volley bounced into the ground and over Roberts’ goal from five yards out.
The former Walsall winger was more clinical on 76 minutes, however, when he collected Constantine’s headed flick on and drilled a low shot past Roberts’ right hand from 12 yards.
Within two minutes, a hitherto gruelling contest was suddenly decided when Lawless won and delivered a free-kick from the right that Constantine controlled on his chest at the far post before beating Roberts from five yards.
Rushden could muster nothing in response, leaving the Minstermen to move up into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
York City 2 (Till 76; Constantine 78), Rushden and Diamonds 0
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Daniel Parslow 7, David McGurk 7, Djoumin Sangare 7, James Meredith 7, Jonathan Smith 7, Neil Barrett 7, Alex Lawless 8, Peter Till 8, Michael Gash 7, Michael Rankine 7.
Substitutions: Duane Courtney (for Sangare 32, 7), Leon Constantine (for Gash 64, 8).
Subs not used: David Knight, Greg Young, David McDermott.
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: Till – offered City’s brightest attacking moments prior to Constantine’s introduction and then took his goal well.
Rushden: Dale Roberts, Max Porter, Curtis Osano, Jamie Stuart, Kurt Robinson (Nathan Koranteng, 83), Matt Johnson (Aaron O’Connor, 79), Alan Power, Lewwis Spence, Dominic Green (Jamie Day, 71), Rene Howe, Ryan Charles.
Subs not used: Joe Day, Joe Keehan.
Booked: Smith 56, Spence 73.
Shots on target: York 4, R&D 0.
Shots off target: York 4, R&D 3.
Corners: York 1, R&D 2.
Fouls conceded: York 5, R&D 13.
Offsides: York 4, R&D 1.
Referee: Billy Khatib (Sunderland). Rating: fairly sensible and positive in his decisions.
Attendance: 2,306 (138 away fans).
Save of the match: Ingham was out smartly to deny Howe on half-time.
Cross of the match: Till’s 52nd-minute delivery to pick out Rankine.
Miss of the match: Rankine’s subsequent failure to hit the target at the far post.
Head to head - Peter Till v Max Porter
Rushden’s makeshift right-back Porter was pitted purposely against Till by City manager Martin Foyle.
He did not look like a complete fish out of water but Till’s tendency to drift inside did leave him looking a little uncertain at times.
Midfielder Porter also looked nervous when City’s opening marksman made positive and pacy runs down the left flank.