York City’s 2-0 away defeat at the hands of mid-table Conference outfit Woking on Saturday hammered another nail in City’s proverbial promotion coffin. Thoughts of automatic promotion to League Two have long been but a distant memory, however now only a consistent run of good results would see the Minstermen finish the season in one of the four play-off spots available.
Following such a strong start to the season, the 230 strong away support would have had time to ponder on the return leg of the 450 mile round journey to Surrey what exactly has gone wrong over recent months at Kit-Kat Crescent. In many respects the old adage ‘one step forward, two steps back’ seems to fit nicely. Strong performances against Scarborough over the Christmas and New Year period and a good result away at Crawley a week into 2006 seemed to suggest an upturn in fortunes, as did the performance – albeit in defeat – against Grays Athletic. But in that same two-week period in mid January, defeat against Stevenage and, perhaps more worryingly, a lifeless performance in a goalless draw against part-time bottom of the league club Southport has hastened the gathering pace of the backward march towards mid-table mediocrity.
With strikers Clayton Donaldson and Andy Bishop, the latter still occupying a place in the top five Conference scorers, City should have the firepower to overcome most Conference defences.
But Donaldson has found the net only once since October and while Bishop has been scoring consistently, he was surprisingly dropped by City boss Billy McEwan for the game at home to Southport. Whether this indicates that the eccentric Scottish manager is having problems with his players, only those inside the Kit-Kat Crescent dressing room can be sure. Nevertheless, it emerged last week that City’s teenage winger Bryan Stewart had missed the games against Grays and Southport due to internal disciplinary reasons. Rumours that Bishop has also fallen on the wrong side of McEwan, allegedly due to an incident at the York City Christmas party, will add weight to the suspicion that morale within the playing and coaching staff could be higher.
In terms of player movement McEwan has been as proactive in the January transfer window as he is on the touchline. David McGurk has re-signed – again on loan – from Darlington and he is joined by new recruits Darren Craddock and exciting French striker Tcham N’Toya, both on loan. Leaving the Minstermen are Graeme Law and Leo Bertos.
The number of loan signings this season at York again underlines the club’s inability to compete financially in the transfer market and, as such, City have launched a ‘Push for Promotion’ appeal for transfer funds, with at least one local businessman having already parted with £5,000 for the cause.
Whether or not Nouse readers will be keen to part with their student loans to boost McEwan’s transfer kitty is open to conjecture, so a more realistic way to boost both York City’s finances and dwindling gates would be to attend the next home game at Kit-Kat Crescent, against rivals Aldershot Town on February 12th. A win is a necessity or this season’s campaign will be as good as over.
By Ben Masters