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Lanre Oyebanjo in line for York City’s big play-off tie
LANRE Oyebanjo is fit enough to return to York City’s side for Monday’s vital Blue Square Bet Premier play-off decider at Mansfield Town.
But the Republic of Ireland under-21 international is more likely to be used in midfield rather than his recognised right-back role should manager Gary Mills decide to start him in the Field Mill contest.
Oyebanjo has missed the last three matches with a hamstring problem but that has cleared up, making him available as City bid to keep their promotion dream alive with the semi-final deadlocked at 1-1 following Wednesday’s first leg at Bootham Crescent.
An in-form Jon Challinor will not be dislodged from full-back but Mills would have the option of restoring James Meredith to left-back should he recall Oyebanjo or of playing both together in midfield as he has done in the past.
On Oyebanjo’s chances of returning to the fold, Mills said: “Lanre trained with us for the first time yesterday since he got injured and did very well.
“If he does come back in, it would probably be in midfield because I think he’s done well for us there. He’s got good energy levels and he’s the type of player who likes to be on the front foot.
“He’s very attack-minded but, because of how he plays as a full-back, he’s also got a defensive mindset so, if I decide to play him on Monday, that will come in handy.”
Challinor provided the cross that led to Exodus Geohaghon’s own goal in the first leg and Mills added that he was pleased with the former Mansfield and Rushden utility man’s performance levels at right-back, adding: “He’s done well over the last few games.
“He came out of the team and worked hard to get back in and I think knowing that Lanre’s available has made him want to keep the shirt even more.”
City are also expected to have Chris Doig available against the Stags although he did not train yesterday, as a cautionary measure after taking a knock late in the first leg.
That match, Mills reckons, can be forgotten now as, with away goals not counting, the teams are starting again on level terms despite City being quoted at surprising odds of 5-2 to win the match with some bookmakers.
“It’s a one-off game now,” the City boss reasoned. “The first leg counts for nothing really other than they will be without their top scorer (suspended 30-goal striker Matt Green).
“It’s all level and we’ve just got to do what we’ve done all season –put in a good performance to get a good result away from home. We only play one way and I don’t care if Mansfield hear that because we won’t change our game to combat them.”
That means Mills is not obsessing over the need to nullify Geohaghon’s long-throw threat, which led to Ross Dyer’s goal in the first leg, placing an equal emphasis on exploiting his own team’s strengths.
“I don’t want to get bogged down by the long throw,” the City boss explained. “It is what it is.
“You have to deal with it like you do when crosses come into your box. You don’t have to worry about them scoring and just defend the ball when it comes in.
“You can’t stop people putting in long throws but we can do a lot of damage ourselves. In fact, I hope he takes a lot of them so it tires him out when he’s trying to get back to centre-half.”
With two days to go before the most important game of the season, Mills also reckons there is a good balance of controlled excitement at Bootham Crescent.
He said: “It’s a big, fantastic game. We know the magnitude of it and what it means to the football club to win on Monday.
“Nobody needs motivating – not myself, the players or our fans. If we can pull it off on Monday we will have two Wembley finals to finish off our season.
“That would be a fitting reward for the players, supporters and the club but only if we win both, do the double and get promoted. The gap between the two games seems like an eternity and I can’t wait for 2pm on Monday.
“My adrenalin hasn’t stopped pumping since Wednesday night.
“I’m excited but, at the same time, it’s important not to get carried away and to remain professional. My players are also relaxed and that’s important.”
Wednesday’s game proved a fiery contest with Mansfield left furious at Green’s 74th-minute dismissal.
Stags manager Paul Cox headed for the players’ tunnel without shaking Mills’ hand at the final whistle but the City chief declined to comment on any perceived lack of sportsmanship, simply saying: “I am proud of my club and proud of what we have done this season.
“I am proud of the way my players and our supporters have conducted themselves and we continue to show what this club is all about.”
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