FORMER York City boss Billy McEwan left leading scorer Onome Sodje out of his starting line-up six times before being dismissed as manager at KitKat Crescent.

Five defeats and one draw from those matches certainly tends to suggest that the Minstermen's teenage striker is of more benefit to his side on the pitch than he is warming the bench.

Admittedly, caretaker chief Colin Walker did manage a maiden victory without Sodje in his first XI at Weymouth but, as McEwan's record illustrates, the popular 19-year-old is left out at your peril.

Ten goals in just 15 starts, two Press Player of the Month awards and an unrivalled rapport with supporters all merit a very strong case for regular selection.

The fact that Sodje is a player comfortably capable of netting 20 goals a season - the most sought-after commodity in football - demands attention as well.

His latest effort earned City a point in a patchy home display against Crawley Town.

The 79th-minute strike was also a reward for the pace and determination that epitomises his game.

Sodje managed to outsprint and outmuscle Crawley defenders Jamie Stevens and Kieran Murphy in a race to reach Craig Farrell's forward pass.

He then stretched to stab the ball into Ashley Bayes' bottom left-hand corner with the outside of his right boot from ten yards out as the Crawley 'keeper advanced off his line.

It was the kind of divine intervention that would have pleased Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, although the club patron's words of encouragement during the pre-match huddle seconds before kick off appeared to have fallen on deaf ears during the game's opening exchanges.

In a uninspiring first half, bossed by the visitors for long periods, City seemed to struggle to come to grips with the 3-4-1-2 formation that had served them so well at Weymouth seven days earlier.

While Danny Parslow, Darren Kelly and David McGurk all performed well as individuals, they looked vulnerable as a three-man defensive unit, with big gaps being exploited by lively Crawley strikers Magno Vieira and Jon-Paul Pittman.

Martyn Woolford, meanwhile, was unable to find the same sort of space in his free role at the other end of the pitch.

But, if the definition of a good manager is a lucky manager, then Walker enjoyed a measure of fortune that eluded McEwan during the final months of his reign.

Aside from a sixth-minute Woolford cross that was clawed away from under his own crossbar, Crawley 'keeper Ashley Bayes was a virtual spectator before the interval.

On 12 minutes, Vieira made a clever, untracked diagonal run into the penalty box before firing across the face of goal.

Pittman then saw three goalbound efforts blocked by some desperate last-ditch defending by Kelly and McGurk.

Centre-back Jamie Stevens also failed to score with two headed chances - directing the first straight at Evans and the second wide after losing marker McGurk at a Paul Watson corner.

In between, Evans fumbled an inswinging Watson free-kick before gathering at the second attempt, and Pittman fired over from 20 yards.

The Minstermen's first deliberate attempt on Bayes' goal saw Farrell drive narrowly wide after cutting in from the right on 41 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, the home team won their first corner of the afternoon, but only a terrific recovery tackle by McGurk on Pittman prevented Crawley taking a deserved lead into the interval.

Four minutes into the second half, Woolford conjured a chance for Farrell but he stumbled with only Bayes to beat.

Kelly also had a header saved before the visitors went in front.

Thomas Pinault's lofted pass sailed over the head of a flat- footed McGurk and released Pittman who, 15 yards from goal, executed a perfectly measured lob with Evans stranded off his line and looking unsure whether to stick or twist.

Seconds later, Pittman fired an equally good chance straight at Evans from ten yards and Walker responded by sending on Sodje and switching to 4-4-2.

It provoked the desired response with Kelly heading wide from a Woolford corner.

Sodje then saw a chance pushed over by Bayes following a Farrell pass, before the pair combined again to leave the promoted reserve coach undefeated after two games in temporary charge.

Match facts

York City 1 (Sodje 79), Crawley Town 1 (Pittman 61)

York City: Tom Evans 5, Danny Parslow 7, Darren Kelly 7, David McGurk 6, Darren Craddock 6, Nicky Wroe 6, Manny Panther 6, Mark Robinson 7, Martyn Woolford 6, Craig Farrell 6, Paul Brayson 6.

Substitutions: Onome Sodje (for Brayson, 62) 7 Stuart Elliott (for Wroe, 67) 6 Chris Beardsley (for Craddock, 73)

Subs not used: Mimms, Purkiss

Key: 10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - Retire

City's star man: Robinson - one of the few who looked as comfortable in the 3-4-1-2 system as the whole team had in their previous outing.

Crawley: Ashley Bayes, Glenn Wilson, Jamie Stevens, Kieran Murphy, Paul Watson, Lee Blackburn, Tyrone Thompson, Thomas Pinault (Dannie Bulman, 83), Mustapha Carayol (Jamie Cook, 82), Magno Vieira, Jon-Paul Pittman (Pierre Joseph-Dubois, 90).

Subs not used: Ronnie Bull, James Krause.

Yellow cards: Wilson 5, Panther 38, Carayol 69, Parslow 87.

Shots on target: York 5 Crawley 8

Shots off target: York 2 Crawley 8

Corners: York 5 Crawley 5

Fouls conceded: York 12 Crawley 14

Offsides: York 7 Crawley 6.

Referee: Paul Curry (Ashington).

Rating: firm in his decisions and got most things right.

Attendance: 2,212.

Tackle of the match: McGurk's excellently-timed challenge on Pittman on the stroke of half-time.

Finish of the match: Pittman's lob was inch perfect.

Decision of the match: Walker's introduction of Sodje on 63 minutes.

City player watch: Centre-back David McGurk

Goal attempts on target: 0

Goal attempts off target: 0

Blocked goal attempts: 0

Passes to own player: 18

Passes to opposition: 3

Crosses to own player: 0

Crosses to opposition: 2

Pass success rate: 78.3 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 0

Dribbles ball lost: 0

Dribble success rate: 0 per cent

Headers: 20 Tackles: 4

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 9

Free-kicks won: 3

Free-kicks conceded: 2

Offsides: 0

Bookings: 0

Final summary: David McGurk made some excellent tackles and blocks for the Minstermen, including his goal-saving intervention on the stroke of half-time. He did not always look comfortable, though, as the left-sided player in a three-man defence and was caught out for the Crawley goal. Positives included his 20 headers, reliable distribution and winning more free-kicks than he conceded.