10:21am Monday 1st April 2013
By Dave Flett
NIGEL Worthington was the man assigned with breathing life back into York City and what better time to begin that resurrection than today.
Ahead of this afternoon’s Easter Monday home clash with Plymouth, the club certainly cannot wait any longer for the former Norwich and Northern Ireland manager’s first victory in charge.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers represented Worthington’s second point from a possible 15 at the Bootham Crescent helm but goal-less stalemates are of little comfort when most of your relegation rivals are displaying a capacity to win – something that has now eluded the Minstermen in their last 16 matches.
Goals remain the biggest obstacle as Worthington plots to emulate the likes of relegation rivals Plymouth, who have just rattled off three straight triumphs.
During Worthington's five games as City manager, centre-back Chris Smith has netted two headers and Richard Cresswell has converted a penalty but, otherwise, the scoresheet has remained blank.
At least, against Rovers, home goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall was named man of the match following fine saves to deny full debutant Tom Platt, skipper Smith and the returning Michael Coulson. But the Minstermen could still benefit from a little more attacking adventure during their back-to-back Bootham Crescent six-pointers against Plymouth and Accrington.
Fortune generally favours the brave on such occasions, rather than the inhibited, anxious or over-cautious, with the likes of Smith, David McGurk and Dan Parslow all capable of keeping matters disciplined at the other end of the pitch.
Richard Cresswell led the line well in Worthington’s 4-5-1 formation at the Memorial Ground but City also need to get the 35-year-old on-loan Sheffield United striker into more scoring positions if they are to capitalise on his knowhow and experience in front of goal. Wide men Ashley Chambers and Josh Carson must start hitting the target too.
In Bristol, Carson missed an excellent early chance to give City the lead for a first time under Worthington.
The on-loan Ipswich midfielder shot wide of an unguarded net from 15 yards after Mildenhall had ventured off his line before punching Jack O’Connell’s seventh-minute free-kick into the home penalty box against the back of a team-mate.
City then appeared to retreat for much of the opening exchanges, leaving Cresswell far too isolated in attack.
Ryan Brunt almost profited twice when he first called Michael Ingham into action from 12 yards following Lee Brown’s left-wing cross.
He then went close to capitalising on an Ingham misjudgement when he skipped past the stranded City ’keeper before Smith swept up the danger.
Fellow forward Eliot Richards also fired wide from the edge of the box before left-winger Ellis Harrison missed the Pirates’ best opportunity of the game, lifting a six-yard chance over after Brown had pulled the ball back from the byline.
Following a long-distance Brunt effort, safely gathered by Ingham though, the Minstermen finally began to threaten on the stroke of half-time when Chambers’ decoy run created the space for Platt to charge through the left channel and receive Carson’s through ball.
But Mildenhall was equal to the teenage midfielder’s rising angled drive, turning it around his near post.
Parslow went on to head off target from Chambers’ resulting corner in first-half stoppage-time.
After the interval, Rovers lacked intensity and urgency, as perhaps might be expected at this stage of the season from a mid-table outfit free of relegation concerns and play-off aspirations.
John Ward’s men managed just one goal attempt during the whole second period – an 81st-minute Joe Anyinsah drive that he dragged wide from 25 yards.
At the other end of the pitch, Chambers hoisted a woeful free-kick over Mildenhall’s bar early in the half and Carson drove wide of the near post after charging through the right channel.
On-loan Sunderland midfielder Adam Reed was the next to miss the target from 15 yards but, on 72 minutes, Smith had Mildenhall at full stretch.
The City captain showed nimble footwork in the penalty box to perform a couple of keep-ups before turning to fire away an eight-yard shot that the on-loan Milwall ’keeper did well to keep out low to his left.
Substitute Coulson, despite treading a little gingerly at times following five months on the sidelines with cruciate ligament damage, then pepped up the City attack during the final 20 minutes.
His spectacular 25-yard effort on 85 minutes that Mildenhall clawed away from his top left-hand corner provided a reminder of happier times with shades of his debut goal at Doncaster on the opening day of the season.
Coulson also combined with Cresswell in the 90th minute to tee up Reed but, having charged into the penalty box, he failed to collect the ball in his stride and the visitors’ last opportunity was lost.
With the addition of Reed, it appears Worthington may have settled on his preferred starting line-up, having yet to select the same side during any of his five games as manager, as he assessed the strengths and weaknesses of his inherited squad. Whatever 11 players kick off the next two momentous matches in the club’s history, it is clear they require the full support of a vocal Bootham Crescent crowd.
The crucial home meetings with Plymouth and Accrington on Saturday will not be the time for terrace slingshots or to air recriminations, as the team embark upon the vital task of preserving the club’s proud Football League status.
Equally, the management team and players must appreciate how much emotion their supporters invest in this club and its future fortunes.
Sadly City super fan Kath Rowe, who once went 24-and-a-half years without missing a single home or away game, will not be among the crowd this afternoon having passed away last week at the age of 74.
But it is that commitment to the cause, personified by Kath, that Worthington and his players must display in the next two matches, because City’s supporters simply cannot walk away from the club in the summer.
Michael Ingham 6
Had little to do but, bar a couple of lapses, was as reliable as usual.
Lanre Oyebanjo 7
Never looked in trouble defensively but can offer more going forward.
Chris Smith 8
Commanding again at the back and continues to look a likely marksman at the other end of the pitch.
David McGurk 7
Despite the occasional slice, cleared the danger whenever needed.
Jack O’Connell 8
STAR MAN – defended with confidence and also delivered several fine crosses in open play and from dead balls.
Daniel Parslow 7
Never gave an inch in midfield role and helped the team keep their shape.
Adam Reed 6
Displayed the ability to get up and support Cresswell but will need to get more involved in next two games.
Tom Platt 7
Happy to battle and keep things simple, also carries a goal threat when given licence to join in attacks.
Josh Carson 6
Missed an early chance to settle nerves and needs to work on his composure in front of goal.
Richard Cresswell 7
Won nearly everything played up to him to little avail in the early stages but team-mates joined in more as game wore on.
Ashley Chambers 6
Delivered a couple of decent crosses but offered little goal threat prior to withdrawal.
Subs: Michael Coulson (for Chambers, 73). (Not used): Arron Jameson, Jason Walker, David McDaid, Matty Blair, Paddy McLaughlin, Jamal Fyfield.
Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mrk McChrystal, Lee Brown, Joe Anyinsah, Danny Woodards, John-Joe O’Toole, Ellis Harrison (Fabien Broghammer, 57), Eliot Richards (Tom Hitchcock, 80), Ryan Brunt (Oumare Tounkara, 70).
Subs not used: Conor Gough, Jim Paterson, Clayton McDonald, Ollie Clarke. Rovers star man: Mildenhall – made three fine saves and always positive off his line.
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northampton).
Rating: 6/10 – All three bookings were unnecessary.
Booked: Chambers 54, Brunt 61, Coulson 87. Sent off: None.
Attendance: 7,378 (280 from City).
Shots on target: Rovers 3, City 3.
Shots off target: Rovers 4, City 7.
Corners: Rovers 6, City 2.
Fouls conceded: Rovers 11, City 12.
Offsides: Rovers 0, City 1.
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