WITH a vital Easter programme up next, York City have already breathed new life into their fight for Football League survival.

The Minstermen had taken just two points from a possible 12 prior to their trip to Mansfield but made an amazing recovery from goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik’s first-half red card to secure a 4-1 win.

City’s ten men were 2-0 up and cruising thanks to Keith Lowe and Shaq Coulthirst goals when Olejnik made an awful double blunder that led to his 31st-minute dismissal.

First, the on-loan Peterborough shot-stopper needlessly rushed out of his goal in a misguided attempt to snuff out Terry Hawkridge’s long ball forward from inside his own half.

Hawkridge was only on the pitch because home boss Adam Murray was forced into a tactical reshuffle on 23 minutes due to City’s early dominance.

But, with Olejnik stranded, Stags striker Rakish Bingham only had one logical choice – to find a gaping goal from 30 yards.

The ex-Austrian under-21 international then compounded his earlier mistake when he managed to get his fingertips on Bingham’s attempted lob.

Referee David Webb was given arguably his easiest decision of the season, although he still seemed to take time to deliberate before sending Olejnik to the changing rooms.

Considering the number of times City fans have watched their side contrive to find various different ways to surrender winning positions this season, the omens did not look good, especially amid a typically hostile Field Mill atmosphere.

But what happened next was inspirational and a display of great courage.

City boss Russ Wilcox opted to sacrifice skipper Russell Penn instead of a frontman as substitute keeper Michael Ingham returned between the sticks for the first time in more than four months.

After a period of adjustment going into the break, Luke Summerfield and Tom Platt coped manfully with the loss of their captain in the middle of the park, while the visitors maintained their attacking threat as front two Jake Hyde and Coulthirst added further goals to sandwich a 77th-minute consolation from Matt Rhead for an out-thought and out-fought Mansfield.

Earlier, the unfortunate Penn had helped set the tone for the match by winning a tackle 30 yards from the home goal.

Platt then fed the eager, overlapping Brad Halliday, whose low cross picked out Hyde in the six-yard box but his shot was superbly saved by Lenny Pidgeley with less than two minutes on the clock.

Another Halliday raid down the right saw Josh Carson’s deflected 20-yard drive pushed behind again by Pidgeley and City forged ahead from the resulting corner.

Carson swung it in from the right wing and Lowe ghosted in front of Stags captain Jamie McGuire to head in at the near post on nine minutes.

On-loan Tottenham striker Coulthirst doubled City’s lead eight minutes later when he sprung the offside trap to race on to a Summerfield pass through the right channel.

He allowed the Mansfield defenders to catch him but went on to cut inside before beating Pidgeley with a low ten-yard shot.

Against the run of play, Bingham struck the bar with a thunderous 15-yard volley before Olejnik’s aberration looked to have handed the hosts a lifeline.

Encouraged by a previously disgruntled home crowd, Mansfield’s response was limited, though, to a Chris Clements free kick that deflected wide off a team-mate and tame efforts from Billy Kee and Vadaine Oliver.

Carson, meanwhile, sent a 35-yard shot bouncing narrowly wide on the stroke of half-time.

With a strong sense that the next goal would probably determine the victors, City grabbed it on 52 minutes before the Stags had mustered a second-half chance. Just three minutes in, Coulthirst and Hyde had both displayed a surprising reluctance to pull the trigger during a dangerous break but, after the latter’s 20-yard drive was deflected wide, he could not have been more clinical from Carson’s right-wing corner.

Timing his run to perfection, Hyde planted a bullet header past Pidgeley at the near post from five yards.

Mansfield were then stirred into action a little with Clements, Ryan Tafazolli, Callum Elder and McGuire all having half chances before sub Rhead drilled a low ten-yard shot in off Ingham’s right-hand upright after Lowe and Halliday had both struggled to clear in the swirling wind.

But City refused to buckle, led by a determined back three of Lowe, Dave Winfield and John McCombe.

Coulthirst was denied in a one-on-one situation with Pidgeley after Platt had won a tackle to set up the chance and the Spurs striker went on to wrap up matters on 89 minutes.

He was sent clear after a header won by fellow on-loan forward Josh O’Hanlon, who was making his professional debut as a substitute for Hyde following his switch from Bournemouth.

Coulthirst snaffled up the chance by beating Pidgeley low to his left from ten yards. It put the seal on unarguably City’s finest display of the campaign – Olejnik’s early shower meaning it eclipsed Wilcox’s other fine away wins at Hartlepool (3-1), Carlisle (3-0) and Cambridge (3-0).

Indeed, on the road, the Minstermen can now count themselves as one of the top-ten teams in the division.

At home, they are comfortably the worst but this display must give Wilcox and his players renewed hope of finding a solution to that conundrum ahead of crucial Bootham Crescent clashes against bottom-three sides Cheltenham and Hartlepool.


Match facts

York City

Bobby Olejnik: 4 – his double blunder might have proved so costly on another day.

Keith Lowe: 8 – claimed his sixth headed goal of the season and is well-suited to new system.

Dave Winfield: 9 – never shirked a challenge either on the ground or in the air.

John McCombe: 9 – did not look in trouble all game and dealt with everything his old team threw at him.

Brad Halliday: 8 – made an energetic start that gave the team genuine early purpose.

Russell Penn: 8 – unlucky to be sacrificed after combative start but proved right decision for the team.

Luke Summerfield: 9 – did an excellent job sitting deep, digging in and keeping possession.

Josh Carson: 9 – determined defensively and delivered two excellent corners for Lowe and Hyde goals.

Tom Platt: 8 – forced mistakes by harrying opponents and always looked to make a forward pass.

Shaq Coulthirst: STAR MAN 9 – constant menace with his ability to run behind the Mansfield defence and could have had a hat-trick.

Jake Hyde: 9 – his nous to pop up in the six-yard box is becoming a real asset to the team.

Subs: Michael Ingham 7 – assured (for Olejnik, 31), Josh O’Hanlon (for Hyde, 73), Shaun Miller (for Coulthirst, 90). Not used: Femi Ilesanmi, Lewis Montrose, Lindon Meikle, Marvin McCoy.

Mansfield Town

Lenny Pidgeley, Martin Riley (Terry Hawkridge, 23), Ryan Tafazolli, Michael Raynes, Lee Beevers, Jamie McGuire, Chris Clements, Billy Kee (Matt Rhead, 52), Callum Elder, Vadaine Oliver (Alex Fisher, 66), Rakish Bingham. Subs not used: Sascha Studer, Ritchie Sutton, Ricky Ravenhill, Jack Thomas.

Star man: Pidgeley – made three fine saves to prevent further humiliation.


Referee: David Webb (Stanley).

Rating: 6/10 – confusing at times.

Booked: Oliver 41, Summerfield 90.

Sent off: Olejnik 31.


Attendance: 3,133 (565 from City).


Shots on target: Mansfield 7, City 8.

Shots off target: Mansfield 10, City 3.

Corners: Mansfield 9, City 6.

Fouls conceded: Mansfield 7, City 7.

Offsides: Mansfield 0, City.