Jose Antonio Reyes may have described England as a place where there is “nothing to do and nowhere to go”, but residents of York have no such excuses for fleeing the country on November 11 when York City entertain Bristol City in the FA Cup First Round – a fixture that managed to escape relatively unscathed by the Trevor Brooking-inspired bungled FA Cup draw.
The fact that a city the size of Bristol has no club in either of the top two divisions still comes as a surprise (though that is likely to change as of next season with City’s probable promotion to the Championship). However, Gary Johnson’s squad will more than likely prove too quick and too strong for Billy McEwan’s side. York City should nevertheless take the opportunity to test themselves against superior opposition and enjoy the financial reward of a gate that will nudge towards 5,000, regardless of the fact that a significant proportion of this will be swallowed up by the not insignificant policing costs that the fixture will result in.
Even a shock victory against the West Country side would not, though, go any great distance to papering over the cracks that are beginning to scar York City’s Nationwide Conference season. Although a late Clayton Donaldson goal against Altrincham took York City back into the Conference play-off places, and whilst fifth position with twenty-eight games to go hardly represents a crisis, inconsistency has again reigned supreme in recent weeks. The resounding 4-2 defeat at the hands of St Albans City – a side who a week later were embarrassed 6-0 by York’s play-off rivals Grays Athletic – and a 2-2 draw against a struggling Tamworth side are results that would be better avoided if York City are to have a chance of returning to the football league.
Billy McEwan can, however, point to a defence that has been ravaged by injury, with highly influential centre-backs David McGurk and James Dudgeon only now starting to return from lengthy periods on the sidelines. The youthful stand-in duo of Danny Parslow and Luke Foster have received praise from McEwan, and latter has extended his loan deal from Lincoln City, but their inexperience has proved to be costly and the City faithfuls can look forward to a turnaround of fortunes in the Conference with the comebacks of McGurk and Dudgeon.
Following defeat to St Albans City, McEwan was outspoken in his view that criticism directed towards him via text messages to BBC Radio York would result in his resignation if they continued. The recent frustration at Kit-Kat Crescent, however, has been largely owing to the increase in expectations since the Scot’s appointment in February 2005, and the Minstermen fans must surely acknowledge that the increase in both points and off-field stability since the disastrous reign of Chris Brass has not been coincidental to the arrival of McEwan.
Regardless of recent league disappointments, Saturday’s FA Cup tie will provide a welcome distraction, and with it comes the opportunity to try and cling on to some of the City fans who have drifted away since York’s relegation from the Football League and, moreover, the opportunity for a money-spinning cup run. So, at £8 with student ID, an afternoon on the (albeit probably freezing) Kit-Kat Crescent terraces does represent good value for money. After all, this is still the most prestigious and well-known domestic cup competition in the world
By Ben Masters