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Match report: York City 2, Forest Green 1
GARY Mills might have regretted going without a substitute goalkeeper at Luton Town in midweek but the York City manager used his bench to great effect on Saturday.
Half-time replacements Jamie Reed and Levi Mackin both scored for the Minstermen, either side of a Reece Styche penalty, to secure three points in a 2-1 home win over Forest Green Rovers and help heal the scars of Tuesday night’s 5-0 thrashing at Kenilworth Road.
The pair’s introduction once more illustrated the strength of City’s squad, as well as Mills’ willingness to change tactics despite his strong faith in the 4-3-3 formation.
Having switched to 4-4-2 to earn a 2-1 victory at bottom-of-the-table Histon seven days earlier, Mills followed suit after a poor first half against lowly Forest Green.
It will now be interesting to see whether the City chief starts with that system when City visit another struggling outfit in Southport on Saturday.
Pairing Reed in attack with Michael Rankine, as Ashley Chambers and Peter Till raided down the flanks, certainly added an urgency to City’s game that was missing before the interval.
Forest Green, who had lined up with a back four and five players across the middle of the park, were rarely stretched by the Minstermen during a first half in which the hosts mustered only two legitimate attempts at James Bittner’s goal – both off target.
Rankine did put the ball in the net on 15 minutes with a powerful six-yard header from Danny Racchi’s dangerous right-wing cross but his effort was ruled out for an innocuous shirt tug – one of several puzzling decisions made by referee Darren Hendley.
Aside from that chance, Chambers curled a decent shot over from the edge of the box and Rankine headed another excellent six-yard opportunity wide when picked out on the far post by James Meredith’s left-wing cross.
Otherwise, Till had a couple of shots well blocked after cutting in from the left as the visitors defended with a determination that epitomised their performance.
David Knight, deputising for Michael Ingham at the other end of the pitch following the first-choice ’keeper’s red card at Luton, had little more to do than Bittner.
The former Middlesbrough trainee was called into making what turned out to be his only save of the match from Craig Armstrong’s tame free-kick after seven minutes.
Later, as Forest Green ended the half strongly, Gavin Caines sidefooted wide after escaping the attentions of Rankine from Keiron Forbes’ corner and veteran forward Steve Guinan lifted another shot over following Meredith’s weak clearance.
With Andre Boucaud, David McDermott and Racchi struggling to impose themselves in the middle of the park and Forbes causing problems running from deep to support lone striker Guinan, Mills took decisive action after the break.
Hauling off McDermott and Racchi, he sent on Mackin – always comfortable in a midfield two – and Reed, whose ability to get the ball down and run at people, coupled with his strength, unsettled the visitors’ defence.
Within moments of the restart, Mackin drove over from 25 yards and, then on 57 minutes, Reed broke the deadlock.
Rankine’s clever back heel sent Chambers charging clear on goal and, when the on-loan Leicester City striker hit a post with a scuffed, deflected effort, Reed was on hand to bundle the ball over the line from close range despite Jared Hodgkiss’ attempts at a clearance.
Captain Chris Smith might have doubled City’s advantage two minutes later but drove wide from ten yards after Reed had headed down Chambers’ right-wing cross to the far post.
Till also headed over before the visitors fought back into the match.
On 70 minutes, Smith survived strong appeals for a penalty when he appeared to handle in the area with Forest Green players surrounding Hendley en masse even while the ball was still in play.
Five minutes later, the Bolton official did point to the spot, however, when Styche wriggled his way past Meredith too easily from a short throw-in and was then upended by an apparent combination of challenges from the Australian left-back and City skipper Smith.
Styche converted the penalty himself, firing into Knight’s bottom right-hand corner as the City understudy dived in the opposite direction.
But the Minstermen rallied again with Reed making space for himself to get a shot away only for Rovers centre-back Danny Hall to produce another unlikely block.
Rankine also headed wide before Mackin drilled a low shot into Bittner’s bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the box after Chris Carruthers had seen his equally ambitious attempt charged down again.
City then preserved their lead until the final whistle in professional fashion, camping close to a corner flag in the Forest Green half for a full five minutes before Hendley blew for time.
Serial time-waster Bittner could only watch on in admiration from the visitors’ goal.
York City 2 (Reed 57; Mackin 85), Forest Green 1 (Styche (pen) 76)
York City: David Knight 6, Daniel Parslow 8, David McGurk 7, Chris Smith 6, James Meredith 6, Andre Boucaud 6, Danny Racchi 6, David McDermott 6, Ashley Chambers 7, Michael Rankine 7, Peter Till 7.
Subs: Levi Mackin 7 (for Racchi, 46), Jamie Reed 7 (for McDermott, 46), Chris Carruthers (for Boucaud, 80).
Not used: Young, Constantine.
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: Parslow – solid defensively and offered constant attacking support down the right.
Forest Green: James Bittner, Jared Hodgkiss, Luke Jones, Danny Hall, Craig Armstrong, Ross Dyer (Liam Enver-Marum, 87), Gavin Caines, Wayne Turk, Yan Klukowski (Reece Styche, 62), Keiron Forbes, Steve Guinan.
Subs not used: Scott Bartlett, Zak Jones, Chris Allen.
Booked: Hall 16, Guinan 42, Rankine 62, Smith 65.
Shots on target: York 3, Rovers 2.
Shots off target: York 7, Rovers 3.
Corners: York 8, Rovers 6.
Fouls conceded: York 14, Rovers 14.
Offsides: York 1, Rovers 3.
Referee: Darren Hendley (Bolton).
Rating: started badly, did not get any better. Series of poor decisions.
Attendance: 2,468 (33 away fans).
Cross of the match: Racchi’s inviting delivery that saw Rankine find the net only to be penalised for a foul.
Miss of the match: Rankine should have headed in on 33 minutes but failed to hit the target from six yards.
Move of the match: Chambers’ cross, Reed’s header, but Smith flashed wide.
Head to head - David Knight v James Bittner
Making his City debut after nine months without a senior match, Knight looked nervous in the early stages with a few badly-struck kicks.
He was quick to sense danger off his line though and punched away well when called upon.
Bittner spent most of the afternoon time wasting and also appeared to carry the ball out of his area on several occasions when punting out of his hands.
His handling was good though and neither ’keeper was at fault for any of the goals.