York City continue good form in campaign for Conference promotion

The remarkable turn around of events at Kit-Kat Crescent gathered pace on Saturday with York City registering a 1-0 win against mid-table Kent side Gravesend and Northfleet. James Dudgeon’s header on nine minutes was enough to secure all three points in a game where City failed to produce an especially flowing performance – but that will hardly bother manager Billy McEwan as his side chalked up their sixth successive win.

A season that was stumbling towards an innocuous mid-table finish in January has been revitalised by recent good form and York now find themselves in fourth place and inside the play-offs, the winner of which will be promoted to League Two. As many as five teams below the Minstermen also hold play-off hopes in a congested upper half of the table but City fans are becoming increasingly confident that York can maintain their late season promotion push. In no small measure this is due to the goal scoring prowess of Clayton Donaldson and in particular Andy Bishop, whose seven goals in the last six games have propelled him to top of the Conference top scorers chart.

Bishop’s future at York is unclear – he has yet to be offered a new contract for next season – but former Hull City striker Donaldson is proving himself a favourite with both fans and manager. Speaking on national radio station talkSport, Billy McEwan went as far as to compare Donaldson’s development with his ex-Derby County colleague and current Costa Rica international Paulo Wanchope, and City fans will be hoping his impact can lead to League Two football.

Promotion would certainly ease the financial problems that continue to plague York. A £100,000 re-payment instalment of a £2m loan from the Football Federation is now overdue and fans are again being asked to help out. Significantly, this is due to the Kit-Kat Crescent playing surface needing changing during the summer – despite the pitch being in no worse state than has been at Stamford Bridge of late – and the £10,000 needed for this has led to the ever growing sight of buckets around the ground in the form of the ‘Pitch in a Pound’ campaign. During the recent home game against Forest Green Rovers this raised in excess of £2,000.

The financial constraints on McEwan make City’s recent revival even the more impressive and the York faithful can count themselves fortunate that the Scot has thrown himself into a club that at one stage last season was threatened with relegation to the Conference North.

Attracting experienced players to York has proved tricky. This is to a large extent the result of, and as McEwan himself has stated, new players’ signing-on fees take the form of a Kit-Kat rather than pound sterling – but in last-minute January transfer window acquisition Neil Bishop the Minstermen seem to have found some much needed strength in midfield.

York City’s forthcoming games will ultimately decide whether or not a play-off place is secured. Grays Athletic hover dangerously just beneath the play-off zone with a game in hand and York City’s next home game is against runaway leaders Accrington Stanley. Coupled with a devilish last three games York City’s task is thus a difficult one but with the energy of McEwan, and the bonus of a prolific front-line, there is every chance the York City Minstermen could be appearing in the Conference play-off final on May 20th.

Ben Masters
sports correspondant

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