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Match report: York City 0, Cambridge United 0
York City man of the match James Meredith, right, again excelled as a makeshift centre-back in a 0-0 draw with Cambridge
York City failed to score in a league match at Bootham Crescent for the first time under Gary Mills as the club’s play-off dream evaporated in the Easter sun.
During a subdued afternoon, both on and off the pitch, it seemed the team and its supporters were already resigned to their fate – an eighth consecutive campaign of non-League football – before the match kicked off.
If that was the case, their fears were vindicated with the news that Fleetwood Town had beaten Barrow, rendering City’s last home game with Cambridge United meaningless whatever the outcome in North Yorkshire.
The 0-0 draw, though, once more hammered home City’s season-long struggle to make their superiority count in terms of final scorelines.
City dominated possession for long periods of the match and managed three times as many shots on goal as their opponents – a statistic far from out of the ordinary during 2010/11.
The corner count was also 14-9 in the Minstermen’s favour but far too many were predictably floated in the direction of Leon Constantine’s head at the near post by Ashley Chambers.
Robert Bruce would have no doubt applauded Chambers’ persistence but, sometimes in football, if at first you don’t succeed, by all means try and try again, but, then perhaps, look to do something a bit different.
Decision making in the final third of the pitch, though, has been the biggest reason why Mills and his players have just come up short in a top-five challenge that would, lest anybody forgets, have seemed ludicrous when the former Nottingham Forest European Cup winner took over the managerial reins in mid-October.
While the Minstermen have managed to find the net during Mills’ 16 other Blue Square Bet Premier home games, however, only two of those matches have reaped victory margins greater than one goal – a 2-0 defeat of Southport and the fantastic 4-1 win over Wimbledon.
And, as the City chief admitted at the final whistle, this was another game that his team should have won – and won comfortably.
Cambridge managed just one shot during a one-sided first half with Dean Sinclair scuffing woefully wide from 25 yards.
The Minstermen, though, for all their promising approach play lacked penetration and were restricted to long-range efforts that allowed Danny Naisbitt to throw himself around his goal for the benefit of Premier Sports’ handful of viewers.
Chris Carruthers was the first City player to try his luck from distance, seeing a 25-yard effort dip over the crossbar and then forcing Naisbitt into his first camera-pleasing stop from a similar position.
Next up was Chambers, who also forced a fingertip save from the edge of the box and, shortly afterwards, sent a swerving shot over from 25 yards when he might have been better advised to have fed Jonathan Smith, who had overlapped unnoticed down the left flank.
On the half-hour mark, Chambers again grazed Naisbitt’s fingernails from the edge of the box but Andre Boucaud probably forced the former Histon ’keeper into his most impressive intervention.
The 26-year-old midfielder, still awaiting his first Conference goal in 126 appearances for City and previous club Kettering, looked to have found Naisbitt’s top left-hand corner from 20 yards out with a sumptuous curling effort but more acrobatics meant Boucaud’s drought continues unabated.
An injury to Smith saw City introduce Peter Till and switch to 4-4-2 for the second half but the hosts still laboured to make inroads against a stubborn Cambridge defence.
At the other end of the pitch, Conal Platt shot over from 20 yards and Danny Wright’s weak long-range effort called Michael Ingham into action for the first time on 55 minutes.
On the hour, Chambers’ header from a Till cross flicked the crossbar with the on-loan Leicester striker claiming vociferously that Naisbitt’s digits had again been brushed only for referee Billy Khatib to signal a goal kick.
Top scorer Michael Rankine was thrown on moments later and Naisbitt pushed his edge-of-the-box attempt around for an unmistakable corner.
Constantine later volleyed over from 15 yards and a Chambers goalbound effort struck Josh Coulson on the head.
Having shown little attacking intent, Cambridge might have stolen victory during the closing stages, though, with the excellent James Meredith and Liam Darville making superb last-ditch tackles to thwart Sinclair and Sam Ives respectively.
Jordan Patrick’s 86th-minute shot was also kept out at his near post by Ingham.
York City 0, Cambridge United 0
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Liam Darville 8, Jamal Fyfield 8, James Meredith 9, Chris Carruthers 7, Andre Boucaud 7, Neil Barrett 6, Jonathan Smith 6, Ashley Chambers 7, Leon Constantine 6, Jamie Reed 6.
Subs: Peter Till 6 (for J Smith, 46), Michael Rankine 6 (for Reed, 65), Levi Mackin (for Barrett, 72). Not used: Greg Young, Will Hatfield.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
Star man: James Meredith – another near faultless display at centre-back.
Cambridge: Danny Naisbitt, Kevin Roberts, Josh Coulson, Brian Saah, James Jennings, Jordan Patrick, Rory McAuley, Dean Sinclair, Conal Platt (Sam Ives, 72), Danny Wright, Liam Hughes (Adam Marriott, 79).
Subs not used: Darryl Coakley, Blaine Hudson, Simon Brown.
Booked: Platt 35, J Smith 39, Roberts 69, Patrick 90.
Shots on target: City 6, United 2.
Shots off target: City 6, United 2.
Corners: City 14, United 9.
Offsides: City 2, United 3.
Fouls conceded: City 11, United 11.
Referee: Billy Khatib (Sunderland). Rating: did not do too much wrong, bar the odd oversight.
Attendance: 2,939 (355 away fans).
Save of the match: Danny Naisbitt’s flying first-half stop from Andre Boucaud.
Tackle of the match: James Meredith’s well-timed lunge to deny Conal Platt.
Head to head - Leon Constantine v Brian Saah
Cambridge’s impressive centre-back got the better of City’s experienced frontman throughout the afternoon.
Saah was rarely made to run towards his own goal by Constantine, who played with his back to the visitors' captain for most of the game.
All things considered, it was probably one of the Leyton Orient centre-back’s most comfortable 90 minutes of the season.
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