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Match report: York City 2, Stockport County 1
AN injection of R&B saw York City boss Gary Mills hit the right note at Bootham Crescent on Saturday.
The announcement of substitutes Reed and Blinkhorn in place of joint-top scorers Matty Blair and Jason Walker might not have been music to the ears of many Minstermen fans, judging by the response to Mills’ bold move midway through the second half of a stuttering display against struggling Stockport.
But the City chief was rewarded for marching to the beat of a different drum when his two replacements orchestrated an unlikely comeback to snare three precious points for the home team.
First, Jamie Reed turned in a long throw into the box from Jon Challinor on 84 minutes to cancel out Danny Rowe’s opening goal for the visitors.
Then, in the sixth minute of stoppage time – one more than the minimum five that had been indicated by the fourth official – Matthew Blinkhorn headed in a dramatic winning goal to secure victory on a day when so many of the teams from the play-off chasing pack, including Kidderminster, Gateshead, Cambridge and Mansfield, all dropped points.
The goal also helped gloss over a dire opening hour from the Minstermen, who took 45 minutes to force their first corner of the match and a further five to call County ’keeper Ian Ormson into action.
Jim Gannon’s men, fighting to prevent their club from enduring a third successive relegation, deserve some credit for compressing space by closing down their hosts quickly.
But City did not help themselves for much of the first half, trying to repeatedly plough their way through a congested middle of the park despite Challinor often being afforded the freedom of the right flank by the Hatters.
The home side’s first-half efforts were limited to long-range Ashley Chambers and Blair attempts fron unfavourable angles and an equally off-target header from the latter after Challinor had belatedly been released down the wing seconds before the interval.
On the restart, Chris Smith headed over from a corner by Chambers, who then threatened to burst clear on 50 minutes before showing indecision and being shepherded away from goal by County defender Joe Connor, leading to an eventual shot that was comfortably saved by Ormson.
In the first half, Stockport had left lone central striker Elliott too isolated to capitalise on the succession of headers he was winning but Gannon pushed Rowe closer to the former Leeds United target man after the break and it paid off on 52 minutes when the visitors forged ahead in front of their impressive following of fans.
Elliott outjumped Smith to find Rowe on the edge of the City penalty box and, despite the on-loan Fleetwood forward being surrounded by the likes of Chris Doig, Ben Gibson and Kerr, he managed to get a low shot away that nestled into Ingham’s bottom right-hand corner.
City boss Mills reacted by switching to a 4-4-2 formation, introducing Ben Swallow first before making his surprise double substitution.
The withdrawal of Walker was perhaps less of a shock, given he is still catching up on match fitness following an eight-game absence with groin problems and the fact that he has been able to accelerate that process while his team have won two important fixtures in the process will also encourage Mills greatly.
Blair’s exit from the action was an eyebrow-raiser, however, taking into account his unwavering commitment to the team’s cause.
Blinkhorn, though, immediately set about vindicating his manager’s faith and, just six minutes after his arrival, headed against the outside of Ormson’s near post from a Chambers corner.
The former Sligo Rovers forward then rose to meet another Chambers flag kick but was thwarted by a point-blank save from Ormson.
On 79 minutes, Blinkhorn teed up a chance for Swallow that was blocked and debutant Ben Gibson’s header flicked off the top of the crossbar before Reed went on to justify his introduction.
Positioning himself perfectly to anticipate that Challinor’s long throw into the box was going to clear players from both teams stationed at the near post, the predatory City finisher beat Ormson with a powerful eight-yard drive.
The hosts looked to have squandered their chance to snatch victory in the fifth minute of added-on time, however, when Kerr, searching for his first goal in 120 games, fired wide 12 yards out after Chambers had pulled the ball back from the byline.
But there was still time for City to win another corner and, when Paddy McLaughlin’s deep delivery from the left saw Reed scissor kick back across the face of goal, Blinkhorn’s header could only be helped into his top left-hand corner by Ormson.
Normally a rock and roll fan, Mills might now be persuaded to play R&B a little more often in the future.
York City 2 (Reed 84; Blinkhorn 90+6), Stockport County 1 (Danny L Rowe 52)
York City: Michael Ingham 7, Jon Challinor 7, Chris Smith 7, Chris Doig 7, Ben Gibson 8, Scott Kerr 7, Paddy McLaughlin 6, Scott Brown 5, Matty Blair 5, Jason Walker 5, Ashley Chambers 6.
Subs: Ben Swallow 6 (for Brown, 60), Matthew Blinkhorn 7 (for Walker, 66), Jamie Reed 7 (for Blair, 67). Not used: Daniel Parslow, Erik Tonne.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
Star man: Gibson – looks a real defensive prospect although less comfortable attacking from full-back.
Stockport: Ian Ormson, Andy Halls, Danny O’Donnell (Carl Piergianni, 6), Joe Connor (Danny Whitehead, 74), Euan Holden, Sean McConville, Jon Nolan, Paul Turnbull, Matty Mainwaring (Aaron Cole, 57), Tom Elliott, Danny L Rowe.
Subs not used: Bernard Hirmer, Danny M Rowe.
Booked: Smith 34, McLaughlin 63, Reed 85, Ormson 88.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool). Rating: competent throughout and little to fault.
Shots on target: City 7, County 7.
Shots off target: City 5, County 2.
Corners: City 7, County 2.
Fouls conceded: City 10, County 10.
Offsides: City 3, County 3.
Tackle of the match: Kerr’s perfectly-executed sliding challenge on Nolan. Slightly mistimed and it was a penalty.
Decision of the match: Mills’ double substitution masterstroke.