REFEREE Charles Breakspear’s shocking decision cost voltage-clad York City a creditable point in Richard Cresswell’s first game as caretaker manager at Crawley Town.

Surrey official Breakspear harshly awarded a late penalty against Eddie Nolan to give ex-Leeds midfielder Simon Walton the chance to score the only goal of the game on 86 minutes.

The defeat was tough on a City team who, wearing a garishly fluorescent yellow third kit designed by Nike whose powers seemingly extend to inventing new colours these days, were never going to have any trouble spotting each other at the Broadfield Stadium.

But, even though the points return might have been the same, the performance of the players in Sussex was unrecognisable from that served up during the 3-1 home defeat to AFC Wimbledon that had cost Russ Wilcox his job seven days earlier.

Cresswell deserves credit for that improvement, implementing a series of surprise changes that all heralded positive responses.

Foremost in those tactical shake-ups was the placing of Femi Ilesanmi at centre back alongside Keith Lowe, adding an injection of pace to the heart of a City defence that has looked vulnerable to counter attacks all season.

Nolan, meanwhile, impressively demonstrated that he is as comfortable playing at left back as he is on the right, giving no clues to observers which foot was his strongest during a sturdy 90 minutes that wasn’t blighted by Brakespear’s cruel punishment.

The captain’s armband, meanwhile, was handed to Michael Coulson, making him City’s fifth skipper of the campaign, representing a fitting reward for his inspirational form since returning to the team from groin surgery and, no doubt, serving as a boost for the popular attacker with its clear illustration of his importance to the team and club.

Finally, Cresswell also gave the much-maligned Emile Sinclair his second start since March on the right side of a front three an d he gave on-loan Birmingham City full-back Michael Hancox a torrid time during the first half but, if given a prolonged run to prove his worth, must now reproduce that threatening potential over the full course of games and every time he steps out on to the pitch given previous false dawns.

An early raid by Sinclair almost saw the visitors forge ahead after just two minutes and, while Crawley managed three times as many shots on goal as the Minstermen on the afternoon, it was Cresswell’s team who created the more clear-cut opportunities.

The first saw Vadaine Oliver shin wide from six yards after that inviting low cross from Sinclair.

After Lowe deflected a Rhys Muprhy drive wide and Matt Harrold’s shot flashed off target for the hosts, Oliver then smartly hooked the ball over his right shoulder from close to the byline to tee up James Berrett but the ex-Carlisle midfielder drilled straight at Crawley keeper Darryl Flahavan from ten yards.

Next, Oliver expertly picked out Bryn Morris’ purposeful burst from midfield but, having charged clear through the right channel, the on-loan Middlesbrough teenager dragged his 12-yard effort across the face of goal.

Flahavan went on to make a smart save from Oliver, who had stole in front of the home defence to meet Coulson’s corner to the near post with a firm volley.

At the other end, City keeper Scott Flinders had to wait 39 minutes before he was called upon to make a save and, even then, it was only a routine stop from Jimmy Smith’s bouncing 15-yard attempt.

Mark Yates’ men started the second half with a little more purpose as Murphy’s shot drifted just wide after he had tricked his way past Sinclair through the left channel.

Flinders then made a brilliant reflex save to deny Shamir Fenelon, pushing over his 12-yard strike after the Crawley winger had connected perfectly with a dropping ball on the full volley. But the Minstermen remained dangerous on the break and an unmarked Oliver should have done better when he headed over from seven yards after Marvin McCoy’s tantalising centre from the right.

On 82 minutes, Flinders excelled again when he charged out of his goal to thwart Fenelon for a second time following Murphy’s through ball before referee Brakespear marked Halloween with a decision that horrified the visitors.

After Harrold headed a Smith corner back towards goal, Nolan appeared to clear the ball but Red Devils skipper Sonny Bradley toppled over in the box and the man, who had favoured the hosts for most of the afternoon and controversially sent off Jake Hyde at Luton last season, pointed to the spot.

Walton went on to wrap up victory, firmly firing to Flinders’ left as the City keeper dived in the opposite direction.

It was a frustrating finish for Cresswell but, despite failing to end a win-less run that now stretches to ten league games, the display represented a fair audition if the ex-England under-21 international is interested in the City job on a permanent basis.

At the very least, it suggested that the Bootham Crescent board need not rush into their next appointment with Cresswell seemingly a safe pair of hands in the meantime.


Scott Flinders: 8 – made two excellent saves but could not repeat the penalty heroics of previous matches

Marvin McCoy: 8 – disciplined defensively and provided a perfect second-half cross for Oliver

Keith Lowe: 8 – no-nonsense display at the back, finding touch when sensible

STAR MAN Femi Ilesanmi: 8 – used his speed to sweep up impressively at the back

Eddie Nolan: 8 – cut a rare sight at League Two level by looking at ease on his supposed weaker side

Michael Collins: 7 – neat ball control and typically tidy with his distribution

Bryn Morris: 7 – energetic and shame he could not mark his debut with a goal

James Berrett: 7 – not getting away as many shots as in earlier games but still busy

Emile Sinclair: 7 – attacked with purpose down the right during opening exchanges

Vadaine Oliver: 8 – missed a couple of chances but a starting point for all City attacks

Michael Coulson: 7 – revelled in captaincy responsibility and probed from out wide

Substitutes: Rhys Turner (for Sinclair, 77).

Subs not used: Michael Ingham, Anthony Straker, David Tutonda, David Winfield, Tom Platt, Ben Godfrey.


Crawley Darryl Flahavan, Lewis Young, Josh Yorwerth, Sonny Bradley, Mitch Hancox, Shamir Fenelon (Roarie Deacon, 87), Simon Walton, Jimmy Smith, Gwion Edwards, Matt Harrold (Lee Barnard, 90), Rhys Murphy. Subs not used: Christian Scales, Luke Rooney, Callum Preston, Jon Ashton, Ross Jenkins.

Crawley star man: Murphy – City did well to keep him at bay


Referee: Charles Breakspear rating: 5/10 – favoured the home side throughout

Booked: Nolan 36, Oliver 37, Berrett 70, Coulson 94.

Attendance: 1,950 (226 from City)


Shots on target: Crawley 5, City 2

Shots off target: Crawley 10, City 3

Corners: Crawley 5, City 4

Fouls conceded: Crawley 9, City 19

Offsides: Crawley 0, City 2