With two crucial games coming up in the BUSA league, York Firsts looked to the NUL match at home to Central Lancashire to instil some confidence into their team. Despite the eventual 2-1 defeat, York can take heart from what was, particularly in the second half, a well contested but ultimately unlucky result.
After a delayed start due to a shortage of qualified referees for the various Saturday fixtures, the away side started more positively. Some excellent defending from York’s Luke Baker, and an impressive parried save from captain Ben Macpherson to deny Lancashire’s David Jenkinson, were all that prevented the away side from taking an early lead. York could only respond to this pressure with a succession of long balls that the lanky Lancashire centre back and captain Alex Bell easily dealt with.
The only first half exception to this trend came as a result of some determined attacking play from Joe Brennan, who held the ball up well to set up striker Ben Matthews, who hit cleanly, but wide, from just inside the area. Soon after this the momentum was back with Lancashire, and moments later they took the lead, thanks to an easy interception on the halfway line. A good pass and an even better turn was enough to provide room for Lancashire striker Paul Roberts to find the underside of the crossbar and ultimately the net from the edge of the area. It was a fitting reward for a strong spell for the away side.
Minutes later, however, and York had what would have been a wonderful chance to equalise, courtesy of a beautifully weighted ball from Matt Martin to Mark Redding. Controversy followed as Lancashire keeper Chris Doran rushed out to close down Redding, only to foul him in the process. The resulting free kick, considered a light punishment by the outraged home side, was deflected but fell kindly to striker Ben Matthews, who should have hit the target. The half ended with a comical miss from Lancashire’s David Jenkinson drilled over an open goal to the bemusement of his team-mates.
The second half started much as the first began. Jenkinson, looking to make amends for his bewildering miss at the end of the first half, ghosted past an unusually disorganised York defence, only to be denied by the left post from five yards. This stroke of luck seemed to spur York into action, and a strong spell for the home side followed, orchestrated by the creative number 9, Mark Redding. It therefore came against the run of play when Lancashire extended their lead in the 57th minute as goalkeeper Ben Macpherson failed to get his hands firmly to a Lancashire corner, leaving Keith Cowans to head unchallenged into the centre of York’s goal.
Lancashire’s Spanish winger Marcus Fernandes had the chance to end York’s hopes of a comeback moments later when he somehow managed to blast over unchallenged from ten yards. This miss proved to be the end of the away side’s dominance, their only chance in the wake of this coming in the form of an unfortunate but deserved penalty in the final minutes. Caldon Hanson took the penalty, which was brilliantly saved by MacPherson. Minutes later, the home side’s challenge was back on track as the superb Matt Martin created an opening and beautifully struck across goal and found the net after touching the inside of the post. York looked a different side as the game drew to a close, and very nearly equalised in the final minute as Mark Redding failed to score from distance when faced with a virtually open goal.
Despite the drama of the final moments, Captain Ben MacPherson considered the final score to be a ‘a fair result’. He was disappointed however that York ‘didn’t have the fight they had had’ in previous games, but blamed the score line on a failure to find ‘that final ball’. He did however single out Dave Robinson and Luke Baker for praise. Let us hope that ‘that final ball’ does not elude them in crucial BUSA league relegation battles in the coming fortnight.
By Ed Humphreys