York Press: Benenden Healthcare Society - Proud sponsor of York City FC

YORK City’s deadline day signing Clarke Carlisle might have become a regular on BBC’s Question Time but it’s his new club who are coming up with all the answers at the moment.

After seeing his side lose 3-1 at home to Wycombe Wanderers on the opening day of the new season, City boss Gary Mills was left irritated by doubters ready to write off his team’s chances of success on their return to the Football League following an eight-year absence.

A few sceptics will also have remained unconvinced by the 3-1 Bank Holiday weekend victory at Barnet – a club whose League status has been so perilously preserved over the last three seasons.

But Saturday’s latest triumph, by the same scoreline, over an Oxford team who went into the Bootham Crescent clash top of the table and boasting a three-game 100 per cent record, should have provided the perfect riposte for those querying whether the Minstermen can make an impression on the higher reaches of the League Two table this season.

At the same time, it also offered important evidence that Mills’ team can perform as well on home soil as they tend to do on the road.

Prior to Oxford’s visit, City had claimed victory only once during their last seven league matches in front of their own fans, compared to five wins from their last six away contests.

Moreover, the sight of Michael Coulson, Ashley Chambers and Paddy McLaughlin on the scoresheet represented the first time in nine Bootham Crescent matches that the hosts have managed to net more than once in 90 minutes.

Perhaps the only query left unresolved by Saturday’s match was whether the team can eliminate the defensive mistakes that have dogged the opening five fixtures of the season.

Charlie Taylor’s first-half handball against Oxford saw the Minstermen give away their third spot kick of the new campaign and, although Saturday’s was saved superbly by Michael Ingham , the home side went on to concede a scruffy own goal.

In truth, City’s cause has not been helped in that respect by the fielding of nine different players already in different back fours this season.

The encouraging performances of debutants Clarke Carlisle and Taylor, however, should lead to some important selection stability in that area during coming weeks.

Centre-back Carlisle, playing his first match since the end of last season, looked a little rusty during the opening exchanges but grew in stature the longer the game went on, making several timely interceptions and displaying dominance in the air, especially while defending second-half set pieces.

The former Leeds and QPR defender’s organisational skills no doubt also contributed to the fact that Oxford were caught offside seven times in the game.

England under-19 international Taylor, while unfortunate with the penalty incident, expressed himself on the ball from the very first whistle, maintaining defensive discipline and offering attacking support.

He made a couple of minor mistakes in the second half but they might have been attributed to over-confidence if anything.

Oxford, knowing City’s preference to kick towards the David Longhurst Stand in the second half, decided to swap ends after winning the toss but Mills’ team might now rethink their normal strategy after making a rip-roaring start to Saturday’s match.

Within 16 seconds, the hosts were in front after Carlisle’s second touch – a searching forward ball – was only cleared as far as McLaughlin.

The Northern Ireland under-21 international’s rasping long-range drive was then fumbled by Ryan Clarke with Chambers quick to pounce before unselfishly nudging the ball sideways to Coulson, who found an unguarded net from six yards.

Club historian David Batters was equally quick in confirming that the goal was not City’s fastest ever, with that honour still belonging to the late Paul Aimson for a 1971 strike against Torquay.

Moments later, Coulson stabbed wide from a similar position after good work by Taylor and McLaughlin down the left and a rampaging run down the right by Lanre Oyebanjo led to a deep cross that was met by Jason Walker before Jonathan Smith was unable to direct his header towards goal.

The visitors then began to impose themselves on an enthralling contest, where both teams, lining up in 4-3-3 formations, played at full throttle with City’s midfield anchorman Dan Parslow unable to get on the ball and dictate the pace in the same manner as he has done in recent matches.

On nine minutes, Sean Rigg curled narrowly over from the edge of the box before firing another 15-yard attempt against the crossbar.

From the rebound, Deane Smalley followed up with a firm drive that struck Taylor’s raised arm with referee Scott Duncan pointing swiftly to the spot.

Ingham, though, having been beaten by the six previous penalties he had faced this season including the Capital One Cup shoot-out defeat to Doncaster, made a great save low to his right from Smalley to maintain his side’s lead.

Just two minutes later, on the quarter-hour mark, City had doubled that advantage in devastating fashion.

Leading a counter attack of breakneck speed, McLaughlin threaded a ball through to Chambers, who then sprinted purposefully forward before exchanging passes with Coulson and firing clinically past Clarke’s right hand from eight yards.

Oxford did not relent in terms of their attacking ambitions, however, with Smalley glancing a near-post header across the face of goal from Jake Forster-Caskey’s corner and Rigg flashing another 20-yard effort wide.

Then, on 23 minutes, the visitors were back in the game after Adam Chapman’s corner was met by Parslow in the air but his wayward header bounced off a helpless McLaughlin and over the line. Ingham then pulled off a remarkable reflex save to deny Smalley again after Rigg had sped past Chris Smith down the left flank.

But Chambers fired a thumping full volley over on the stroke of half-time and Oyebanjo unleashed a fierce 35-yard drive that flashed narrowly wide three minutes after the restart.

The third goal duly arrived courtesy of another lightning counter attack on 54 minutes.

Walker’s clever reverse pass sent Chambers sprinting down the left flank and his low cross picked out McLaughlin, who fired calmly into Clarke’s bottom right-hand corner from just inside the penalty box.

City then defended staunchly and only substitute James Constable threatened a response.

On 81 minutes, he sidefooted a presentable far-post opportunity across the face of goal before Ingham crowned a fine performance shortly afterwards when he grabbed a low cross from the same player as fellow replacement Tom Craddock waited to tap in.

Matty Blair , meanwhile, enjoyed a sprightly cameo off the bench for City, running the visitors’ defence ragged after coming on for lone central striker Walker.

City supporters, thrilled by their team’s performance, will have also enjoyed the final scoreline – an exact reversal of the last time the two sides met in the 2010 Conference play-off final.


Match facts

York City 3 (Coulson 1; Chambers 15; McLaughlin 54), Oxford United (McLaughlin og 23)

York City

Michael Ingham - 9
Two great saves during another quality performance that met with his consistently high standards.

Lanre Oyebanjo - 9
Getting back to his best and his positive play early on helped set the tone for the rest of the match.

Chris Smith - 8
A couple of unsure moments early on but recovered to give a commanding second-half display.

Clarke Carlisle - 8
Imperious in the air while his intelligence and positional sense also came to the fore after the odd shaky first-half incident.

Charlie Taylor - 8
Made a classy debut that belied his 18 years and looks as dependable defensively as he is talented on the ball.

Dan Parslow - 8
Grafted hard in the middle of the park without providing the continuity of possession he has done in previous games.

Paddy McLaughlin - 9
Got on the ball more than in any previous match this season and always looked liable to hurt the opposition.

Jonathan Smith - 7
Afternoon when a few things did not come off for him on the ball but, as you would expect, worked hard for the team’s cause.

Michael Coulson - 8
Popped up in the right place at the right time for the first two goals and came in off the flank well to support Walker.

Jason Walker - 8
Won his free-kicks and paved the way for City’s vital third goal with intuitive vision.

Ashley Chambers - 9
STAR MAN – continued irresistible form with two assists either side of being the architect and finisher of his third goal of season.

Substitutes: Matty Blair (for Walker, 71), Jamal Fyfield (for Coulson, 79), Jon Challinor (for Chambers, 88).

Subs not used: Musselwhite, Bullock, Fyfield, Potts, McReady.

Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damien Batt, Michael Raynes, Jake Wright, Tony Capaldi, Simon Heslop (Tom Craddock, 60), Adam Chapman, Jake Forster-Caskey, Sean Rigg (Jon-Paul Pittman, 76), Deane Smalley (James Constable, 64), Alfie Potter.

Subs not used: Sean McGinty, Wayne Brown, Daniel Boateng, Tyrone Marsh.

Star man: Rigg – caused problems with willingness to get a shot away.

Referee: Scott Duncan (Newcastle).

Rating: 7/10 – did little wrong and allowed an entertaining spectacle to flow.

Booked: Chambers 45.

Sent off: None.

Attendance: 4,015 (513 from Oxford).

Shots on target: City 4, Oxford 5.

Shots off target: City 4, Oxford 5.

Corners: City 2, Oxford 8.

Fouls conceded: City 11, Oxford 8.

Offsides: City 1, Oxford 7.