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Match report: Lincoln City 0, York City 2
BARRING a 15-0 win for Cambridge against Grimsby tomorrow, York City will take a fortnight’s break from league action knowing their top-five position is under no threat.
Following Saturday’s 2-0 win at Lincoln, fellow play-off hopefuls Gateshead and Kidderminster are the only other sides capable of climbing above fourth-placed City before Gary Mills’ men resume Blue Square Bet Premier action again at home to Ebbsfleet.
But, with those teams using up their game in hand on the Minstermen against each other tomorrow, only one will usurp their Bootham Crescent rivals, leaving Mills and his players to take on FA Trophy second round hosts Salisbury this weekend free of any anxiety and in a positive frame of mind.
In Matty Blair, meanwhile, City have a match-winner who is compensating valiantly for the continued absence of talismanic top scorer Jason Walker.
Blair’s second-half brace at Lincoln took him into double figures for the season and he has now netted eight times in the last nine games.
Justifiably praised for his work-rate and desire throughout his first season at Bootham Crescent, Blair also displayed the goalscoring nous of an accomplished marksman on Saturday.
Pouncing on a loose ball in the penalty box, Blair sidefooted past home ’keeper Joe Anyon from 12 yards for his first goal and he also only required one touch to claim a second, stealing in front of his marker to head in Danny Pilkington’s right-wing cross.
Pilkington, meanwhile, played a strong supporting role in the victory, galvanising City after a nondescript first half with a succession of dangerous crosses from both flanks.
Prior to the interval, there had been few moments of genuine quality from either side.
The ball pinged from one team to the other as City, lining up in Mills’ favoured 4-3-3 formation without the possibly Fleetwood-bound Andre Boucaud, struggled to retain possession in a manner their manager expects and demands.
Jamie Reed, playing the lone central striker role, also spent far too long with his back to goal, when he is so much more of a threat facing in the opposite direction.
But, in the second half, the Minstermen were a different proposition.
As well as the efforts of Blair and Pilkington, new midfield signing Scott Brown got stronger as the game went on, which was encouraging given his lack of recent match action at previous club Fleetwood.
His forward runs off the ball after the interval also added an extra dimension to the City midfield which has been missing to an extent when the likes of Adriano Moké and Jon Challinor have not played in that area of the pitch.
While the Minstermen grew stronger in the second half, however, a very mediocre Lincoln team could not raise their standards.
Leaving lone striker Sam Smith far too isolated in attack until going 2-0 behind, the Imps did not manage a single shot on target until the second minute of stoppage time and failed to win a corner all afternoon.
Before the break, Paddy McLaughlin went closest to opening the scoring when his free-kick brushed inches past ’keeper Anyon’s right-hand top corner.
Otherwise, Brown, Challinor, Blair, Chris Smith and Pilkington all failed to trouble Anyon with weak efforts at the home goal. At the other end, Conal Platt and Alan Power both missed the target from the edge of the box for Lincoln.
In the second period, the overly cautious Imps were pushed further back into their own half and McLaughlin blazed over after the ball fell at his feet 12 yards from goal, while Pilkington’s attempted lob was grabbed out of the air by Anyon.
Moments later, however, in the 64th minute, Blair had broken the deadlock. Reed was crowded out in the home penalty box as he looked for a clear sight of goal but the ball broke to Blair, who swept his firmly-struck shot into Anyon’s bottom right-hand corner.
The visitors’ confidence grew after the goal with Pilkington driving over from 25 yards and then running on to a Reed pass before picking out Brown with a low cross from the left wing.
But the former Everton trainee was denied a goal on his debut when his on-target effort was deflected narrowly wide.
Pilkington was again the architect as the Minstermen doubled their advantage on 72 minutes.
Operating from the right flank this time, he swung in a left-footed cross that Blair headed into the roof of the net from eight yards after a determined, darting run towards the near post.
Proving he is just as dangerous from the opposite flank with his other foot, Pilkington was then unfortunate not to claim another assist when he perfectly delivered another cross on to Reed’s head only for the former Bangor City striker to clear the bar.
Mirroring past performances, the Minstermen switched off a little in the closing stages and were a little fortunate not to concede a goal.
First, a communication mix-up between Chris Smith and Challinor saw the latter lucky to survive strong appeals for handball in the penalty area.
In injury time, Power also called Michael Ingham into action for the first time before substitute Jamie Taylor’s rising edge-of-the-box effort cleared the crossbar.
Lincoln City 0, York City 2 (Blair 64, 72)
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Jon Challinor 7, Daniel Parslow 7, Chris Smith 7, James Meredith 7, Scott Kerr 7, Scott Brown 7, Paddy McLaughlin 7, Matty Blair 8, Jamie Reed 7, Danny Pilkington 8.
Subs: Ashley Chambers (for Reed, 88). Subs not used: Potts, Fyfield, Ashikodi, Musselwhite.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
Star man: Blair – his excellently-taken goals just gave him the nod over Pilkington and his superb crosses.
Lincoln: Joe Anyon, Tony Sinclair, Karlton Watson, Rob Williams, John Nutter, Conal Platt (Jamie Taylor, 70), Tyrone Thompson, Jean-Francois Christophe, Alan Power, Nicky Nicolau (Danny Lloyd, 70), Sam Smith (Richard Pacquette, 78). Subs not used: Matthew Pearson, Adam Smith.
Booked: S Smith 70, Nutter 73, Christophe 78, Lloyd 79, Sinclair 83.
Shots on target: Imps 1, York 6.
Shots off target: Imps 4, York 10.
Corners: Imps 0, York 6.
Fouls conceded: Imps 19, York 11.
Offsides: Imps 3, York 2.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Newcastle).
Attendance: 3,048 (703 from City).
Cross of the match: Pilkington’s delivery for Reed’s off-target header was probably just marginally better than his delivery for Blair’s second goal.
Header of the match: The darting run, timing of his jump and power of Blair’s second goal was a real treat.