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‘York City’s season starts here’ is Mills’ play-off rallying cry
IT might be the last day in April but York City manager Gary Mills is insisting his side’s season starts now.
With Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Forest Green Rovers marking the climax of the regulation Blue Square Bet Premier campaign, fourth-placed City are now fully geared up for a two-legged play-off semi-final tussle with Mansfield Town.
The first 90 minutes of that contest will take place at Bootham Crescent on Wednesday (kick-off 7.30pm) and an excited Mills cannot wait with his FA Trophy finalists still gunning for Wembley glory on two fronts.
Adriano Moké’s late goal at the weekend means the Minstermen will face a Mansfield team with 13 wins from their last 15 fixtures, rather than league runners-up Wrexham, who take on Luton instead.
City shared the spoils twice with the Stags over the Christmas and New Year period and Mills is not daunted by his team’s next challenge, saying: “The season starts now.
“We have got so much to play for and I am looking forward to it. We know it’s Mansfield now, so bring them on.
“We are ready for it. We were behind in both matches against them in the league and had to show a bit of character but, once we were a bit braver, we got the ball down and dominated the games.”
Mills made six changes on Saturday from the starting line-up that secured a play-off place at Braintree the previous weekend, resting Matty Blair, Ashley Chambers, Paddy McLaughlin, James Meredith, Chris Smith and Jason Walker.
The City boss admitted afterwards, though, that the performance might have been better, adding: “It wasn’t the best of games.
“We made a lot of changes and rested quite a few players, but I wanted to see a bit more because we hardly had a shot before we scored.
“The front three were letting Forest Green dictate to them but we got another clean sheet and got a goal and we’ve now won our last three games 1-0, which shows some character.”
Marksman Moké, returning from a hamstring injury, did earn praise from his manager, however, along with centre-backs Chris Doig and Dan Parslow.
Mills said: “Pars and Doigy were exceptional. They were our two best players, along with young Mokey, who worked really hard.
“I felt sorry for him and that’s why I pushed him further up in the second half because he was doing well but he can hurt teams more further up the pitch. He was a bit down when he got his injury but he’s worked superbly hard to get back.
“It’s good to have him back because he’s one of those players that can change a game for you.”
First-year scholar Reece Kelly was also given his debut at the age of 17 as a 77th-minute substitute with Mills hailing a bright prospect, saying: “He did well and he’s a cracking little lad.
“I’ve told him to start getting his mum to give him bigger portions at dinner time because he’s only tiny but I’ve seen something in him and I think he’s a young player who’s got a good future at this football club. He’s a good footballer who takes people on and can cross a ball.
“He also sees a pass and he’s only a first year so he’s going to get stronger.
“I would have also played (youth-team captain) Tom Platt today but Harrogate had an important game in their fight against relegation so I did not want it on my conscience if I brought him back from his loan spell and they went down.”
The City boss added that he is “80 per cent” sure that first-choice keeper Michael Ingham will be fit to return for Wednesday night’s vital clash following his ankle injury but suggested, tongue in cheek, that the former Northern Ireland international might struggle to dislodge 43-year-old goal ’keeper coach Paul Musselwhite after his performances in the last three games.
Mills said: “Michael Ingham should be okay for Wednesday. I’m 80 per cent sure of that but, with three clean sheets on the trot, we will have to see if he gets back in.”
Tickets for Wednesday’s first leg of the play-off semi-final against Mansfield will be on sale to season ticket holders from 10am to 6pm today.
Tomorrow between the same times, sales will be made to season ticket holders and anyone presenting their match ticket from Saturday’s game against Forest Green.
Tickets will go on general sale on Wednesday from 10am up until kick off.