YORK CITY’S supporters have endured some tough love this season but Russ Wilcox’s men gave them the best Valentine’s Day present against Tranmere Rovers – a vital three points.

Wes Fletcher’s brace, his first goals for three months, lifted the Minstermen out of the League Two drop zone and capped a second half display that had the home fans lovestruck.

You had to pinch yourself to remember the 2-0 victory over the Merseyside outfit was only York’s second home win of the season, such was their dominance over their fellow strugglers.

Surely it ended any debate over whether Wilcox will stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has brought the club four points in a heartening week.

If Fletcher grabs the headlines for his goals, and the second – a bullet past Owain Fon Williams after he had cut in from the right on 58 minutes – is worthy of the plaudits, then similar praise should be showered on Brad Halliday after the teenager produced an astonishing performance in midfield.

Having spent much of his time at City as a full-back, the on-loan Middlesbrough player has proved a revelation alongside skipper Russell Penn as the anchors in the centre of the park.

Tigerish, committed and powerful when going forward, Halliday’s work allowed the likes of Michael Coulson and Josh Carson to do what they do best: attack.

The only disappointment was that York didn’t score more. They certainly deserved to.

Who could have foreseen before kick-off that Jennison Myrie-Williams’ free kick, which sailed high into the David Longhurst stand in the first minute, would be Tranmere’s only really threatening moment until a stoppage time effort, easily saved by Bobby Olejnik, saw them record their only shot on target?

York quickly grew in confidence – Carson and Penn both having shots blocked – before Fletcher was brought down just outside the box 20 minutes in.

Coulson’s free kick was low and blocked but the ball spun sideways and came to Halliday on the right after being pushed on by Penn.

It could have been a shot or a cross from the youngster but it sped straight into the centre of the Tranmere box where Fletcher, the predator, was waiting.

Stretching, he turned his shot into Williams’ bottom right hand corner from six yards out.

It was his first goal in 13 games, having not been able to celebrate since netting City’s goal in the 3-1 FA Cup loss at Wimbledon back in November.

Having forged in front, York should have been further ahead at half-time. Emile Sinclair fired wide after Carson’s cross from the left found him eight yards out and Fletcher was unlucky not to score on 34 minutes.

Carson was again released down the left and his centre saw the former Burnley forward execute a really clever turn before hitting it hard at Williams’ near post.

The Tranmere keeper pulled off an excellent stop with his legs to keep it out. Deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half, Sinclair should definitely have done better as a Coulson corner dropped right onto his head on the edge of the six yard box.

He’ll have been disappointed as he saw his effort clear the crossbar.

With goals having been at a premium for the Minstermen before their double at Luton Town in midweek, a fraught crowd prayed City would not again be made to pay for their profligacy.

Fletcher ensured they wouldn’t.

Collecting Coulson’s pass and getting the ball on the right side level with the edge of the penalty area 13 minutes after the restart, he cut back into a central position and unleashed a bullet which flew past a stranded Williams.

The Tranmere keeper then did brilliantly to keep out a point blank effort from Carson after the midfielder befuddled the defence with twists and turns.

He, and Malvind Benning, then both hit the post on 65 minutes. Benning was first on the left hand side and, as the ball span right, Carson rattled the right upright with a fierce drive.

Williams could hardly draw breath. It was all City.

He got down brilliantly to his right to parry away Halliday’s fierce, low drive from just outside the area as York continued to play some sparkling football.

Carson and Halliday, the former forcing a point blank save from the beleaguered Tranmere keeper and the latter slicing over the bar from close range, could both have added to the lead late on as City ended in impressive fashion.

Northampton can’t come soon enough.

York Press:


Bobby Olejnik 8 - Will have been pleased to record his first clean sheet as a City player. Enjoyed a quiet afternoon.

Marvin McCoy 8 - Once again made the most of the opportunity that has seen him brought back in the York line up.

Keith Lowe 8 - Rarely finds himself out of position and looked serene on a quieter afternoon for the City back four.

Stephane Zubar 8 - Some key blocks and tackles early on before he was able to sit back and admire the Minstermen waves of attacks.

Malvind Benning 8 -  Always willing to get up and support as City attacked. Did not shirk on the few occasions he was needed defensively.

Russell Penn 8 - Halliday might take the spotlight but his experienced colleague was a cool companion alongside, particularly on a difficult pitch.

Brad Halliday – STAR MAN 9 - Sensational midfield performance from the on-loan Middlesbrough teenager, who is sure to become a key fixture in the centre of the park.

Josh Carson 8 - Looks like a player reborn now given the licence to get into the box in Wilcox’s new formation. A constant threat.

Michael Coulson 8 - Carried on from Luton Town on Tuesday night. Caused problems wherever he roamed.

Wes Fletcher 9 - Good anticipation to score the opening goal and then capped superb forward display with a belting second.

Emile Sinclair 8 - May want another go at the header that cleared the bar just before half-time but a willing outlet and a key part of a side that looks much more threatening.

Subs – Lindon Meikle (Carson, 86).

Subs not used: Femi Illesanmi, John McCombe, Lewis Montrose, Tom Platt, Ben Hirst, Michael Ingham.

Tranmere Rovers: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Adam Dugdale, Harrison McGahey, Rob Taylor, Max Power, Steve Jennings, Jennison Myrie-Williams (Lee Molyneux, 75), Iain Hume (Jake Kirby, 67), Kayode Odejayi (Jason Koumas, 68) Rory Donnelly.

STAR MAN – Owain Fon Williams – Tranmere keeper was the only thing that stopped City putting up a cricket score.

Subs not used: Liam Ridehalgh, Marc Laird, Peter Brezovan, Josh Thompson.

Booked: Holmes 27, Dugdale 48, Coulson 50.

Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland). Rating 7/10 - Never too much of a factor, which is how it should be.

Attendance: 3,714 (777 from Tranmere).

Shots on: York 9, Tranmere 1.

Shots off: York 7, Tranmere 3.

Corners: York 2, Tranmere 3.

Fouls: York 14, Tranmere 10.

Offside: York 2, Tranmere 4.