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Mills ‘delighted’ as York City win to clinch play-off place
YORK City manager Gary Mills declared himself “delighted” after his side secured a play-off place with one game of the Blue Square Bet Premier season still to go.
Following Erik Tonne’s 75th-minute goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win at ten-man Braintree, this weekend’s home clash against Forest Green will now only determine whether City will face Wrexham or Mansfield in a two-legged semi-final tie.
Three points in Essex, coupled with Luton’s defeat of Kidderminster, means no team can now deprive Mills’ men of a top-five spot.
Luton, though, will climb above fourth-placed City tomorrow night on goal difference if they win by more than a one-goal margin at Gateshead.
But, with just three points separating the two teams presently, the contest to finish fourth will not be over regardless of tomorrow’s result. Anything less than a Hatters victory at Gateshead will also mean they can still be overhauled for fifth place by Kidderminster going into the final programme of fixtures.
Luton visit champions Fleetwood on Saturday, while Kidderminster play host to a Mansfield team already guaranteed to finish third in the table.
For now, it is certain that City will play host to Mansfield on Wednesday, May 2 or Thursday May 3 if they remain fourth or league runners-up Wrexham on one of those dates if they finish fifth.
The deciding leg will then be played at either Field Mill or the Racecourse Ground on Monday, May 7 – five days before City tackle Newport in the FA Trophy final at Wembley, where the play-off final will also be contested on Sunday, May 20.
After seeing his side clinch a top-five place in front of 450 travelling fans, Mills said: “I’m delighted we are in the play-offs and it’s fantastic to be in that position going into our last game at home.
“Our fans were superb and the following was absolutely brilliant. It always is and we’ve still got so much to play for.
“We’re in the FA Trophy final and in the play-offs with a chance of getting to Wembley twice.
“It’s been a fantastic season and we want to finish it off in the right way now.”
Saturday’s victory also saw Mills’ team break a 38-year-old club record for least away defeats in a league campaign.
This season’s tally of just three losses surpassed the previous best figure by one, which had been set by the historic 1973/74 side – the only team to win promotion to the second tier of English football in City’s history.
Mills applauded his team’s efforts on the road but admitted he is only interested in creating history for one reason now, saying: “Our away form has been superb and, if our home performances had been better, then we would not have been relying on a result at Braintree to get into the play-offs.
“We’ve only lost three times away from home and, while my old team Tamworth thoroughly deserved to beat us, I think we should have also come back with draws from Newport and Gateshead, where we conceded three goals which isn’t like us. It’s fantastic to break records but there’s only one that I really want.
“I want to win the FA Trophy at Wembley and also get this fantastic club back into the Football League there. We would be the first team to do that and we are a step closer now.”
Mills went on to hail the patience of on-loan Sheffield United matchwinner Tonne in only his second league outing since joining the club in January, as well as that of his team, who never panicked against a stubborn home side reduced to ten men when striker Sean Marks was sent off after just 27 minutes.
The City chief said: “It was another magnificent effort by the players. We had to be patient but, if we are, I know we can always score a goal if we keep passing the ball and we did that well all afternoon, including when it was 11 against 11.
“Erik finished superbly when the ball rolled across on to his left foot and what I would say, even though his goal was quite a cultured finish, is that I’ve never seen a player with a shot like him.”
Goalkeeper coach Paul Musselwhite, meanwhile, kept the opposition out for a second successive match, following his debut in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Cambridge, with first-choice Michael Ingham still sidelined by a shin injury.
Ingham is expected to have a second scan if the problem does not respond to further treatment this week but Mills praised 43-year-old veteran Musselwhite, who spared skipper Chris Smith’s blushes following a weak back pass when he denied Marks in the incident that led to the latter’s dismissal after he was shown a yellow card – his second of the afternoon – for supposed simulation in the penalty box.
Even Mills thought that decision was harsh but, on Musselwhite’s contribution to another 1-0 win, said: “It was another clean sheet, which is fantastic. The chips he eats ensured his big body got in the way after Smudger’s bad back pass.”