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Match report: York City 1, Forest Green 0
EVERGREEN York City goalkeeper Paul Musselwhite is now the proud owner of two club records.
Having earned the first one by virtue of his 1960s birth certificate, the Minstermen’s oldest-ever player will certainly take great satisfaction from his latest entry into the Bootham Crescent history books.
Saturday’s 1-0 home victory over Forest Green, in the final game of the regulation Blue Square Bet Premier season, means 43-year-old Musselwhite is the first net-minder during the club’s 90-year existence to begin his City career with three consecutive clean sheets – a feat beyond the likes of Dean Kiely, David Stockdale, Graeme Crawford, Tommy Forgan, Alan Fettis and, indeed, current first-choice Michael Ingham, among many, many others.
With Ingham expected to be fit again for Wednesday’s Blue Square Bet Premier play-off semi-final first leg clash against Mansfield, it remains to be seen whether Musselwhite will ever get the opportunity to extend either of his landmark records but his contribution to the tail end of the 2011/12 term will not be forgotten.
Much has been made of play-off opponents Mansfield’s 13 victories from their last 15 games but Musselwhite’s efforts have helped ensure City will tackle the Stags having won three successive league games for the first time this season and for only the second occasion under Mills although, in truth, the former Scunthorpe and Hull ’keeper rode his luck en route to completing a hat-trick of shut-outs with Forest Green pair Matty Taylor and Jamie Turley both rattling the frame of his goal.
For Taylor’s first-half 20-yard strike, Musselwhite appeared to go down in slow motion before the ball hit the base of his right-hand upright but there was nothing sluggish about his excellent stop from the same player seconds after the restart.
Taylor, released for a clear run at goal by Yan Klukowski, shot low from eight yards but Musselwhite thrust out his left hand to make a fine reflex save.
Otherwise, City’s deputy between the sticks had a relatively quiet afternoon, enjoying solid protection again from a back four, expertly marshalled by Chris Doig and Dan Parslow.
Which centre-back to leave out must be Gary Mills’ biggest selection dilemma as he contemplates his starting line-up against Mansfield with Doig, Parslow and captain Chris Smith all vying for two places.
At the other end of the pitch, meanwhile, City’s experimental front three of Moses Ashikodi, Matthew Blinkhorn and Erik Tonne did not stake their claims for inclusion in that match, as Mills rested six players in a much-changed line-up.
Promising visiting centre-backs Turley and Eddie Oshodi, 22 and 20 years of age respectively, both gave performances, however, that illustrated why ambitious Rovers finished the season with the division’s fourth-best defensive record.
Their displays also offered an explanation for the presence of respected back four sentinels Luke Graham and Chris Todd on the visitors’ bench.
Defences were on top throughout the 90 minutes with the game crying out for the attacking tenacity of a Happy Wanderers hero Arthur Bottom, whose passing away was marked with a minute’s applause prior to kick off.
With less than two minutes played, Scott Brown, one of the players handed a run-out by Mills, was fortunate not to pick up a four-match ban, which would have ruled him out of contention for all City’s remaining play-off and FA Trophy endeavours.
The midfielder’s over-the-top, studs up challenge on Michael Uwezu provided the game’s ugliest moment but he escaped with just a caution from referee Rob Merchant.
Brown went on to force the only save of the first period but his sixth-minute 25-yard effort was too tame to trouble Rovers ’keeper Sam Russell.
Winger James Norwood also hammered a wild edge-of-the-box attempt against the roof of the David Longhurst Stand for the visitors before Blinkhorn shot over on the turn from eight yards after good work by Adriano Moké and Taylor struck the post.
The Forest Green forward was then thwarted by Musselwhite at the start of the second half, while Ashikodi spun on the six-yard line but fired straight at Russell with half of the net unguarded after Brown had pulled the ball back from the byline.
Uwezu then tested Musselwhite from distance and Klukowski’s 35-yard free-kick whistled wide only for the hosts to make the breakthrough on 82 minutes.
Substitute Danny Pilkington did what he does best, but not as often as he should, when he worked himself into a crossing position before picking out Moké with an accurate low centre from the left.
Moké’s ten-yard, sidefooted shot then slipped through Russell’s fingers and squirmed under his body before crossing the line.
Despite Turley heading against the bar from a Klukowski corner, Moké’s goal was sufficient to earn City maximum points and Pilkington, cutting in from the left, also called Russell into action with a rising effort as the home side sought a flattering second goal.
Had Pilkington gambled on teenage debutant Reece Kelly’s ability to deliver a dangerous cross from the right by charging towards the far post, he might still have got his name on the scoresheet prior to the final whistle.
Kelly showed promise during his 15-minute cameo but whether Mills recommends the fabled Musselwhite diet of burgers and chips to fill out his scrawny frame remains to be seen.
York City 1 (Moké 82), Forest Green 0
York City: Paul Musselwhite 7, Jon Challinor 6, Daniel Parslow 7, Chris Doig 8, Jamal Fyfield 6, Scott Brown 6, Michael Potts 6, Adriano Moké 6, Moses Ashikodi 6, Matthew Blinkhorn 6, Erik Tonne 6.
Subs: Jamie Reed 6 (for Ashikodi, 57), Danny Pilkington 7 (for Blinkhorn, 57), Reece Kelly (for Tonne, 77).
Not used: McLaughlin, White.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
Star man: Doig – reads the game so well and always seems to make the right decision with his distribution.
Forest Green: Sam Russell, Jared Hodgkiss, Jamie Turley, Eddie Oshodi, Chris Stokes, Jamie Collins, Kieron Forbes, Yan Klukowski, Michael Uwezu (James Rowe, 81), Matty Taylor (Reece Styche, 76), James Norwood.
Subs not used: Michael Pock, Chris Todd, Luke Graham.
Booked: Brown 2, Klukowski 8, Oshodi 87.
Shots on target: York 5, Rovers 5.
Shots off target: York 2, Rovers 6.
Corners: York 3, Rovers 7.
Offsides: York 1, Rovers 0.
Fouls conceded: York 11, Rovers 13.
Referee: Rob Merchant (Staffordshire). Rating: showed leniency with Brown but did very little else wrong.
Attendance: 3,391 (77 away fans).
Mistake of the match: The ballboy who jumped into action to retrieve the ball before it went out of play.
Save of the match: Musselwhite’s early second half stop.