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York City 1, Wycombe Wanderers 3
YORK City marked their return to the Football League in unwanted fashion with the club’s heaviest defeat in more than 18 months.
That a 3-1 loss is responsible for such a statistic, however, should place into context the progress that has been made by Gary Mills and his players during the last year and a half. Prior to Wycombe Wanderers’ visit to Bootham Crescent for Saturday’s historic League Two encounter, the Minstermen had not been beaten by more than a one-goal margin since a 4-0 thumping at Southport, back in January 2011.
With David McGurk ’s second-minute sending off offering mitigating circumstances for that scoreline, however, it is also telling that City’s only other league loss greater than a single goal under Mills came when Jonathan Smith and goalkeeper Michael Ingham were red-carded at Luton without a specialist replacement for the latter between the sticks.
Other than that, Bolton Wanderers had been the one side to overcome a City team managed by Mills by more than one goal with equal numbers on the pitch and, even then, international pair Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander had to be hailed off the bench to score late goals in a third round FA Cup tie at the then Premier League outfit’s Reebok Stadium.
That’s not a bad record for a man who took over in the aftermath of a 4-0 nadir at Newport.
Saturday’s result, therefore, for supporters that have become accustomed to the kind of exhilarating and unprecedented highs only provided by Wembley double-winning campaigns came as a little bit of a surprise and maybe an anti-climax.
It is to be hoped, however, that the 4,000-plus fans that flocked to a rousing and heaving Bootham Crescent keep on turning up, as their continued presence will make so much difference to the club on and off the pitch.
A packed David Longhurst Stand, loving every second of the build-up to their team’s first Football League clash in eight years, welcomed City on to the pitch with an eye-catching flag display.
Seconds later, left-back Jamal Fyfield ’s headed clearance represented City’s first touch back in League Two but the game then struggled to ignite during the opening exchanges.
Both sides appeared to be waiting for something to happen rather than forcing the issue and, with each employing three central midfielders, congestion in that area of the pitch became a problem with the temptation seemingly greater to go long rather than wide.
The first noteworthy moment came on 27 minutes when Jonathan Smith scythed down Matthew Spring and picked up his first caution of the new campaign.
Within seconds, though, the Chairboys had forged ahead from the afternoon’s first shot of any description.
When Chris Doig failed to make a satisfactory clearance from Joel Grant’s low cross from the right, the ball fell to Wycombe midfielder Matt Bloomfield, whose 20-yard daisy cutter deflected off the Minstermen’s Scottish defender to beat Ingham.
City managed their first goal attempt shortly afterwards with Dan Parslow shooting wide from the edge of the box.
Parslow then provided a cross that Jason Walker nudged towards Jonathan Smith but the former Swindon midfielder’s tame 20-yard volley did not unduly trouble away ’keeper Nikki Bull.
On 38 minutes, Walker dragged a long-distance effort wide and Jonathan Smith’s determination saw him power ever closer to the visitors goal before Grant Basey’s clearance cannoned narrowly wide off the combative midfielder.
An acrobatic Walker volley also finished wide of Bull’s goal after Michael Coulson’s deflected looping shot fell out of the sky.
City, though, lost concentration before the break and, when Doig gave away possession in his own half, Stuart Beavon’s rising drive called Ingham into action.
Moments later, the visitors had doubled their lead in the 45th minute when Jonathan Smith’s heavy touch in midfield saw the ball sit up nicely for Sam Wood and his spectacular 35-yard volley dipped over City ’keeper Ingham, who was a couple of strides off his line.
The hosts squandered a great chance to reduce the deficit seconds after the restart when, following good work on the left byline by Paddy McLaughlin, Jonathan Smith fired a poor shot high and wide from ten yards.
On 53 minutes, Wycombe then added a third when Basey’s deep cross from the left flank saw Stuart Lewis beat McLaughlin to the ball at the far post before Beavon swooped to fire in a low ten-yard finish that Fyfield failed to block.
Ingham remonstrated with the officials, arguing that Basey’s delivery had gone out of play but his protests only earned the former Northern Ireland international a yellow card.
City did get on the scoresheet a minute later, though, in slightly fortuitous circumstances when Parslow’s cross from the right was met by Ashley Chambers ’ head at the far post.
The ball then struck Jonathan Smith inadvertently on the knees before bouncing off an equally unwitting Jason Walker’s backside and into the Wanderers’ net.
For a team that created more than twice as many chances as their opponents but never looked remotely as clinical, it was perhaps a fitting consolation effort.
On the hour, another great opportunity saw substitute Matty Blair turn and fire over the bar from six yards after a clear push by Lewis on Parslow in the penalty box, following Jon Challinor’s long throw, went undetected by referee Andy Haines. After Chambers had pulled the ball back from the byline, Bull was forced to tip over a sidefooted rising shot from Parslow.
Chambers then glanced a header wide from Challinor’s cross but the kind of grandstand finish that garnered several late points last season at Bootham Crescent never materialised.
Instead, Wycombe’s defence held firm and, after converting exactly 50 per cent of their six goal attempts, claimed their first victory for ten matches – a sequence stretching back almost five months.
The Minstermen must now take their 21-match wait for a Football League victory to in-form Morecambe tomorrow night.
Ingham 6 - beaten three times but hard to say that he was culpable for any of the goals conceded.
STAR MAN Parslow 7 - as dependable as ever after starting at right-back and then switching to midfield.
C Smith 7 - gave another solid performance and always there to mop up when needed. Doig 5 - looked shaky at times, as well as a little off the pace and error prone.
Fyfield 6 - made a positive start but offered little going forward after the break.
Bullock 5 - very quiet in the Minstermen midfield prior to being replaced early in the second half.
J Smith 6 - full of typical endeavour and commitment but his quality on the ball was not always the best.
McLaughlin 6 - fairly peripheral prior to being withdrawn before the hour in a double substitution by Mills.
Coulson 5 - struggled to make inroads down the flanks and only showed glimpses of his ability.
Walker 5 - literally got the clichéd goal off the backside that every striker supposedly needs but below his high standards otherwise Chambers 6 - almost anonymous first 45 minutes and, while he figured more after the break, can contribute more.
Subs: Matty Blair 6 - tried (for Bullock, 55), Jon Challinor 7 - positive (for McLaughlin, 56), John McReady 5 - subdued (for Coulson, 69).
Wycombe: Nikki Bull, Anthony Stewart, Gary Doherty, Leon Johnson, Grant Basey, Joel Grant (Dennis Oli, 76), Stuart Lewis, Matthew Spring, Matt Bloomfield (Dave Winfield , 87), Sam Woods, Stuart Beavon (Richard Logan, 90). Subs not used: Lee Harrison, Lee Angol, Jesse Kewley-Graham, Kortney Hause.
Star man: Doherty - read the game perfectly from the back and won his battles in the air and on the deck.
Booked: J Smith 27, Ingham 53, Spring 67.
Attendance: 4,591 (319 from Wycombe).
Referee: Andy Haines (Sunderland) rating: 5/10 - made some really glaring errors. Far from a masterclass in the art of whistle blowing.
Shots on target: City 6, Wycombe 5.
Shots off target: City 8, Wycombe 1.
Corners: City 9, Wycombe 1.
Fouls conceded: City 11, Wycombe 16.
Offsides: City 1, Wycombe 4.