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York City 0, Stevenage Borough 2 - FA Trophy final at Wembley
IT’S unlikely to be shortlisted for next year’s Mercury Prize but few people would dispute the lyrical accuracy of York City’s adopted FA Trophy final song.
YouTube musician Chuitar rapped “We’re York City and we’re not that good” as the Minstermen conducted their pre-match Wembley warm-up to an anthem, recently described “as catchy as swine flu” by The Press arts expert Charles Hutchinson.
Martin Foyle’s men, in turn, did little to challenge “City at Wembley’s” opening line slur once their live televised clash against Stevenage kicked off.
The fact that their side was, indeed, “not that good” must have still come as a shock, though, to the 11,000 or so day-tripping fans who made the 200-mile trek down the M1.
A shame that really because, if the Blue Square Premier strugglers could attract just a third of those supporters to KitKat Crescent next season, the club would surely make a swift return to the Football League.
That prospect currently appears as distant, though, as at any stage since the club were relegated into the Conference in 2004.
Just two years ago, the Minstermen were rightly distraught after their exciting side, boasting the likes of Martyn Woolford and Clayton Donaldson, narrowly missed out on promotion in a two-legged, semi-final defeat to Morecambe.
After Saturday’s defeat, though, players spoke of the achievement in reaching the final of non-League football’s premier knockout competition while manager Foyle stressed the gulf that now exists between City and perennial Conference under-achievers Stevenage – a side who included soon-to-be 38-year-old coach Dino Maamria on their subs’ bench.
It was all fairly depressing diction and representative of a shift in the club’s self-perception over the past 24 months, during which time part-time minnows Histon have emerged as strong promotion contenders.
Foyle replaced cup-tied pair Adam and Christian Smith with Simon Rusk and Mark Greaves against the beaten play-off, semi-finalists.
Despite boasting a larger squad than rival manager Graham Westley, the City chief’s options did appear limited and the 11 players he selected corresponded with those supporters would have chosen in their starting line up according to our online survey in The Press.
Nevertheless, the 4-4-2 formation Foyle fielded did not seem suited to the personnel at his disposal.
A lack of natural width was exposed by Rusk and Adam Boyes’ failure to penetrate down the flanks while Greaves and fellow central midfielder Levi Mackin rarely ventured into the final third of the pitch either.
That left strikers Richard Brodie and Daniel McBreen cutting isolated figures far too often and, when Onome Sodje was introduced on the hour, he was starved of any kind of service for the remainder of the match.
Foyle’s old fears about his squad’s capacity to provide two players capable of controlling play from the middle of the park certaintly resurfaced.
A switch back to 4-3-3 may not have made a difference but the use of wing-backs Ben Purkiss and the unfortunate Mark Robinson perhaps could have done.
Even with a lack of cohesion going forward, though, City still had first-half opportunities.
After just 32 seconds, McBreen scuffed wide from 12 yards.
Later in the half, Boyes also drilled a low shot straight at Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day after outpacing Ronny Henry to reach Rusk’s through ball and, during stoppage-time in the first period, Greaves blazed over the bar after his initial effort had cannoned back off team-mate David McGurk.
They were misses that were to prove as costly as Wembley meat and potato pies.
At the other end, 32-goal forward Steve Morison had twice powered past Daniel Parslow only to uncharaterisically fluff his finish on both occasions.
Lee Boylan and Peter Vincenti also missed the target with headers after full-back Henry had marauded down the right flank unchecked.
In the second half, City had ambitious appeals for a penalty rejected when Brodie fired a shot against Michael Bostwick’s hand.
Boyes also missed the target with a weak edge-of-the-box finish after cutting in from the left.
Just past the hour, a Purkiss free-kick flicked over off the Stevenage wall when a forward pass to a bizarrely unmarked Brodie was the best – even if most obvious – option.
Vincenti then tested Michael Ingham from 25 yards before Morison broke the deadlock on 68 minutes.
Centre-back Mark Roberts headed towards goal from an Andy Drury corner. Morison then poked the ball forward and, when Parslow misjudged his sliding challenge and Purkiss was slow to react, the former Northampton striker seized a second invitation to prod in from two yards.
Stevenage pressed forward for a second goal with Vincenti glancing a header wide from another cross delivered by Henry.
Parslow was also inches away from finding his own net with a diving header after Drury’s centre.
In injury-time, Purkiss curled City’s last chance of an equaliser wide from a 20-yard free-kick before Boylan profited from some schoolboy defending.
Parslow cleared the ball into touch on the left wing but then neglected to mark Boylan.
The grateful, former West Ham trainee was sent clear on goal after a quick throw-in by Morison and beat Ingham with a well-executed dipping 12-yard volley despite Purkiss’ last-gasp attempts to get across and cover.
Seconds later, referee Michael Jones blew the whistle.
City can still take pride in Wayne Hall’s 1993 penalty and even claim a certain degree of satisfaction from ex-Minsterman Keith Houchen’s famous FA Cup final header six years earlier for Coventry but, sadly, Wembley memories from 2009 will be few and far between.
York City 0, Stevenage Borough 2 (Morison 68, Boylan 90)
Michael Ingham 7
Could do little with either goal and reliable as ever on crosses
Ben Purkiss 5
Toiled to get forward and might have done more to prevent the opener
Daniel Parslow 5
Had a difficult afternoon trying to contain Steve Morison
David McGurk 6
Read the game astutely though also looked untypically flustered at times
Shaun Pejic 7
Mopped up in defence and also had City’s best long-range effort
Simon Rusk 5
Game passed him by and disappeared for long periods
Levi Mackin 5
Hardly noticed until sliding challenge earned him a late caution
Mark Greaves 6
Gave it his all but asking a lot from a 34-year-old. Ran out of steam
Adam Boyes 5
Fired straight at Chris Day when given a rare sight of goal
Daniel McBreen 5
Missed an early chance and offered little else for remainder of the game
Richard Brodie 5
The more he tried the less he achieved on a frustrating afternoon
Onome Sodje (for McBreen, 60) 6
Andy McWilliams (for Greaves, 75)
Simon Russell (for Rusk, 81).
Subs not used: Mark Robinson, Josh Mimms.
Star man: Pejic – reliable as clockwork.
Stevenage: Chris Day 7, Ronny Henry 8, Mark Roberts 8, Michael Bostwick 7, Lawrie Wilson 7, Andy Drury 8, Gary Mills 7, Darren Murphy 7, Peter Vincenti 7 (Eddie Anaclet, 87), Steve
Morison 8, Lee Boylan 7.
Subs not used: Ashley Bayes, Mark Albrighton, Dino Maamria, Calum Willock.
Referee: Michael Jones (Chester)
Shots on target: York 3, Stevenage 5.
Shots off target: York 14, Stevenage 13.
Corners: York 1, Stevenage 5.
Fouls conceded: York 10, Stevenage 19.
Offsides: York 1, Stevenage 1.
Player watch: Ben Purkiss
Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 1
Blocked goal attempts: 1
Passes to own player: 18
Passes to opposition: 9
Crosses to own player: 2
Crosses to opposition: 5
Pass completion rate: 58.8 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 4
Dribbles ball lost: 1
Dribble completion rate: 80 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 3
Fouls won: 1
Fouls conceded: 1
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: City’s cultured full-back struggled to provide the attacking outlet he has for most of the season down the right flank and several of his crosses came from deadball situations. His distribution was, uncharacteristically, hit and miss at times but he had a relatively comfortable afternoon defensively, making just two tackles in the game. Will be disappointed, though, not to go closer with either of his free-kick attempts on goal.