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Match report: Alfreton Town 0, York City 2
FOLLOWING back-to-back defeats, York City resurrected their play-off push with an Easter Monday victory at Alfreton Town.
Second-half goals from Matty Blair and Lanre Oyebanjo breathed new life into City’s top-five quest just as some of the 720-strong travelling supporters might have been wondering whether their team were going to be on the receiving end of another hard luck story.
The Minstermen had deserved some reward for their efforts during both their previous losses against Fleetwood and Newport and dominated yesterday’s match against a team that had won seven of their last eight Blue Square Bet Premier fixtures.
But the omens did not look good when Jamie Reed’s 48th-minute penalty was saved.
Blair, though, went on to claim his 17th goal of the season on 69 minutes before Oyebanjo, who must pop up in the opposition’s six-yard box more than any other right-back in the country, made the points safe shortly afterwards.
The importance of victory was then hammered home by the news that play-off rivals Kidderminster and Luton had both picked up maximum points as well.
Mills made three changes to his team with Eugen Bopp and Ben Gibson ruled out by injury and illness respectively, while Erik Tonne dropped to the bench.
The absence of Gibson saw James Meredith restored to the back four, ensuring City had attacking impetus from both flanks in Mills’ 4-3-3 formation.
Dan Parslow was also moved forward into an anchoring midfield role and gave the nearest imitation of a Scott Kerr performance in that role since the talismanic vice-captain was crocked last month.
The former Wales under-21 international displayed great positional awareness and a reliability in possession that will have grabbed Mills’ attention as he looks for a permanent replacement for Kerr during the remainder of the season.
City signalled their intentions from the start of the match by creating four good chances in the opening ten minutes.
Home goalkeeper Jon Stewart was called into action after just two minutes when he tipped over a looping Danny Pilkington volley and also dived to his left to keep out a 30-yard Paddy McLaughlin drive that skidded off the saturated surface.
Pilkington then drove over after Reed had pulled the ball back from the byline following Adriano Moké’s forward pass before Blair came closest to opening the scoring, drilling a low 25-yard effort against a beaten Stewart’s right-hand upright.
Alfreton’s first shot of the match saw Jamie Mullan almost uproot the corner flag with a wild edge-of-the-box volley midway through the first period but a casual back pass by Chris Doig presented the hosts with their best opportunity of the half.
Antony Wilson gratefully accepted the invitation for a free run on Michael Ingham’s goal but the alert City ’keeper smothered his shot well.
At the other end, Oyebanjo’s powerful angled attempt was beaten away by Stewart, who also saved a McLaughlin strike at his near post.
Ingham then tipped over a 35-yard Josh Law free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Just three minutes had elapsed after the break when Reed squandered a great chance to break the deadlock.
The former Bangor City striker was brought down by home captain Darran Kempson as he chased down the ball through the right channel after Oyebanjo had won a header from left-back Connor Franklin’s throw.
Reed’s weak penalty was too close to Stewart, though, as he dived to his right to make a comfortable save.
But the chances kept coming with Reed creating the next two, providing left-wing crosses that saw Chris Smith head wide and Moké hit a rising shot that was pushed over at a comfortable height by the Reds’ ’keeper.
Blair finally made the breakthrough when he hit a first-time shot into Stewart’s bottom left-hand corner from eight yards following Moké’s teasing pass into the penalty box.
Seven minutes later, Oyebanjo doubled the visitors’ advantage, firing in from six yards after McLaughlin had pulled the ball back from the left with covering defender Nicky Deverdics unable to clear off the line.
The afternoon’s persistent rain then turned into a torrential downpour and, had the heavens opened just 15 minutes earlier, referee Karl Evans would have had no option but to abandon proceedings.
Instead, he allowed the last couple of minutes to be played out in almost farcical conditions after Deverdics had gone close to claiming a consolation for the hosts when his 25-yard shot bounced wide of Ingham’s left-hand post.
Alfreton Town 0, York City 2 (Blair 69, Oyebanjo 76)
York City: Michael Ingham 8, Lanre Oyebanjo 8, Chris Smith 8, Chris Doig 7, James Meredith 8, Daniel Parslow 9, Adriano Moké 7, Paddy McLaughlin 7, Matty Blair 8, Jamie Reed 7, Danny Pilkington 7.
Subs: Jamal Fyfield (for Smith, 81), Jon Challinor (for Pilkington, 87), Matthew Blinkhorn (for Reed, 90).
Not used: Michael Potts, 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: Parslow – did everything you could ask from for a midfield anchorman away from home.
Alfreton Town: Jon Stewart, Josh Law (Nicky Deverdics, 75), Darran Kempson, Theo Streete, Connor Franklin, Jamie Mullan (Daniel Meadows, 81), Jake Moult, Seamus Conneely (Nathan Jarman, 53), Anton Brown, Adam Cunnington, Anthony Wilson.
Subs not used: Paul Clayton, Nathan Arnold.
Shots on target: Alfreton 2, City 9.
Shots off target: Alfreton 4, City 10.
Corners: Alfreton 4, City 8.
Fouls conceded: Alfreton 8, City 11.
Offsides: Alfreton 2, City 2.
Referee: Karl Evans (Wigan): rating: lenient at times but perhaps took conditions into consideration.
Attendance: 1,603 (720 from City).
Save of the match: Ingham’s smart first-half stop following Doig’s mistake provided platform for victory.
Cross of the match: McLaughlin claimed yet another assist to pick out Oyebanjo for City’s second goal.