County’s last league visit to Bootham Crescent( barring playoffs) saw them go down to a narrow 1-0 defeat to a strong York City side last night in front of not far short of 500 traveling County fans in a decent Tuesday evening crowd of over 3000.
It was a hard fought game in which both sides had their moments, but as the evening wore on so the hosts full-time status told, and a 77th minute strike by York’s M.O.M Wes York was enough to win it for the Yorkshire side.
It was scant reward for a County side that saw their intended starting eleven disrupted by pre-match illness of key man Sam Walker. More ill fortune followed on apace thereafter as a nonsense of a challenge by Simon Heslop laid Scott Duxbury out just 3 minutes after the start, necessitating the young full back’s substitution some 10 minutes later.
Kallum Mantack came on for Duxbury and did well enough , but County were missing two key elements from the display on Saturday, and in a tight game, where small percentages count, between 2 well matched sides that element was perhaps enough to shade it for York.
The blues did have their moments, most notably another belter from Paul Turnbull that comprehensively beat keeper Adam Bartlett, but came back out off the crossbar. Elsewhere Mulhern and Stephenson, prompted by Mantack and Minihan did their best to stretch the home back line, but with Hamza Bencherif and Joe Tait presenting a daunting barrier to goal, the odds were weighted in City’s favour.
At the back for County, Hinchliffe was outstanding pulling off a string of good saves in both halves, when Wes York and others in red looked stronger and stronger, and Keane and Palmer, of the outfield defenders, shone brightest.
Smalley for Walker was the only County change at the start, and I wondered whether this would necessitate Minihan switching to the Walker roll, but he was stationed wide right and up the park mostly, and it soon began to become apparent that Keane was doing the Walker bit, and he would do it well, getting some telling covering headers and blocks in .
The first attack of the game came from County, but Mulhern, as lively as ever, saw his shot charged down by one of a clutch of red-shirted defenders.
Another minute and York had the game`s first free kick, and Hinchliffe his first save of the game, as he advanced to punch clear from within a thicket of red and blue shirts in the box.
It was at this point that Duxbury `took one` from Heslop necessitating a prolonged period of treatment. Referee Sam Barrott somehow saw nothing amiss here and play eventually resumed both players being substituted not long after.
Already Wes York was emerging as City’s main source of threat, and Ash Palmer did well to head clear from a corner after York had darted to the by-line. The number eleven was there again within a minute , County defending well and getting a decent block in, but Wes York was giving us a clear warning.
County replied, with 11 minutes gone, but keeper Bartlett held onto Dazzer`s shot without undue hassle.
A minute or so on from that last action and a potentially key moment played itself out to my left as, with Turnbull in attendance, Wes York threw himself to the ground prompting the quickest of reactions from Referee Barrott who pointed to the spot.
Hmm…..penalty…and probably 1-0 to York……but we had forgotten Ben Hinchliffe and he threw himself to his left to keep the kick from Jordan Burrows out in magnificent style!
It was still 0-0, and Mantack was now on for Duxbury slotting nicely into an altogether more defensive roll than the one he did so well in late on Saturday.
End to end stuff followed …..Cowan putting pressure on York with a typically determined run, and a subsequent free-kick adding more angst for York to deal with. They survived, and a free kick of their own ( handball by Palmer) put County under the cosh, but the situation eased when Bencherif headed Wes York`s cross wide.
It went on from York, Palmer heading clear under pressure from Wes York, and Russell Penn lifting an effort over the bar with the home specs expecting better.
The 23rd minute saw County respond and very nearly score. It began with a run and pass to Mulhern from Stephenson. The ball then went straight to Turnbull who lurked menacingly just outside the box. In no time Bully had sized the situation up and fired in a veritable Exocet that smashed into the crossbar with the keeper a helpless spectator. The ball stayed out, however, and it remained 0-0, and another of the game’s key moments had come and gone.
Back came York next and Smalley and Hinchliffe did good work to deny them….
Then County replied as Minihan fed off an excellent Stephenson/ Mantack combo to win a corner. County did try to get something from this, but with Minihan challenging for the ball and Burrows plummeting to earth as if dead, Sam`s only reward was a ridiculous booking.
Play switched again with ex Hatter Adriano Moke on the ball and he did well only to see his work wasted by Alex Kempster `s final ball that was easily mopped up by the blue back line.
Another moment of note came 37 minutes in when Bartlett left his area to head clear in spectacular fashion with Stephenson played clear.
Stephenson continued to look lively and he dazzled down the right next. Only for efforts by both himself and Minihan to be charged down.
It went on as Mantack supplemented some decent defending by sending Warburton and Stephenson clear. The ball ended up with Stephenson , but his shot carried the bar .
Not the last chance of the half for County- that fell to Mulhern in added time- his shot going wide from Turnbull`s pass.
Nil /Nil was not a bad situation at the break, and there was all to play for in the second half!
York opened the second half brightly- but Moke disappointed the locals by lifting his shot over the bar a couple of minutes in.
Wes York was still in the mood, but so was Hinchliffe and when York`s pass put Wright in, the County keeper disappointed those locals again with a fine save.
County`s first real chance of the half came 8 minutes in after Mulhern had earned a corner. Blue shirts swarmed around the box, like ravenous hyenas circling a corpse, and Keane`s effort was heading in when Bartlett rose to tip the ball over the bar at the very last gasp.
That excellent save was then followed by another……at the other end….as York then hit us on the break through Wes York, but Hinchliffe would not be beaten and it stayed 0-0.
Twice more after this Wes York rattled the County cage, without success.
Bell was on for Stephenson just before the hour mark, as Mulhern went down in the box on the end of a Minihan cross. The referee was not impressed, so no penalty, but something akin to panic was abroad at the back for York and Bartlett only just beat Mulhern to a poor back pass smack in front seconds later!
With just over 20 minutes left, York brought on Parkin and Langstaff for Wright and Burrow, County responding shortly after with Dimaio taking Warburton`s place.
Langstaff started well, but his run and pass saw Kempster unable to force the ball home with County stretched.
Bell had a shot charged down not long after, but at this point the pressure was on County, who were thankful for Keane`s alert responses that saw the threat off.
But York were not finished, particularly Langstaff and another impressive run from him tore great holes in the retreating County cover. A neat pass inside to York followed and Hinchliffe could do nothing with the shot that came next and it was 1-0 to our hosts.
Credit to County…they came back fighting – a corner ensuing after a brilliant run down the right by Minihan. Frustratingly nothing came of the corner except a counterattack by York involving Wes York and Langstaff. The former‘s pass put the latter in only for another fine save from Hinchliffe to nullify all the good work from the Minstermen.
Although County had more defending to do after that, there still was time to rectify matters…one break away…some steady nerves….. and………… but Mulhern’s run, with 4 minutes left, saw a fairly gruesome clash of heads between him and Tait.
County were trying……so were York and Hinchliffe did well to get hand to ball and punch clear under pressure enabling a late County counter. This though was repulsed by finger in dyke stuff from Bencherif prompting another counter from Langstaff for York who looked downcast to see his shot smack into a post and stay out with just 1 minute of normal time left.
Into added time ( 4 minutes of it)and notionally there was still time for that late salvage jobby !
Yes…there was, but when Cowan lifted the ball into the box, Mulhern`s glancing header was firmly held by Bartlett( 91 minutes).
Mulhern then saw another effort on the break just carry the bar( 92 minutes)
Bell was unlucky ( 93 minutes) and Dimaio perhaps more so as he volleyed the ball home only for the effort to be ruled out.
The 4 minutes were up now and the locals were on their feet to a man/woman whistling and howling at the referee to end their anguish and secure them their points, which after not that long he did.
A tough game that one, but then we always knew that it would be so.
No shame to lose to the well-knit set of pros that Martin Kay put out last night.
We need to re-group now for another toughy away at Southport on Saturday where hopefully we will have Walker and Duxbury back.
See you there!
[As ever, photos from the game can be found here! ]
York City line up:
Bartlett, Griffiths, Newton, Bencherif, Tait, Penn, Kempster, Heslop( Moke 7), Burrow( Langstaff 67), Wright( Parkin 67), York.
Subs not used : Ferguson, Whitley.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Palmer, Smalley Duxbury ( Mantack 14), Keane, Minihan, Turnbull, Mulhern, Warburton ( Dimaio 69), Stephenson ( Bell 59).
Subs not used : Ormson, Downing.
Attendance 3218 ( 456)