YORK CITY 0 vs. GRAYS ATHLETIC 1
Blue Square Premier, Saturday 6th December 2008
Since their relegation from the Football League in 2004, York City have seen a number of supposed new dawns. Today, the dawn of the Martin Foyle era proved disappointingly hazy. A shambolic 1-0 reverse at home to Grays Athletic, a team drowning in the Conference basement battle, wasn’t the start the ex-Port Vale manager would have wanted, or expected.
A first-half strike from Wesley Thomas split the sides at KitKat Crescent, as York failed to figure out how to break down the visitors from Essex, who executed the textbook Conference strategy of packed defence and the ugliest form of the long-ball game. Evidently, Foyle had followed up last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Salisbury City with experimentation on the training ground, but his methods were more quadratic in their complexity than pragmatic.
Craig Farrell was paired with Daniel McBreen in attack, though in the absence of Onome Sodje pace was the missing factor. Andy McWilliams offered craft on the flanks and packed a venomous shot, while bleach-blond Simon Russell laboured opposite him. Despite their input, the Minstermen, who have overturned deficits more than any other Conference team this season, couldn’t find the equaliser against a Grays side who hadn’t yet won away. Frankly, they didn’t deserve to.
Grays, like a curiously high number of sides in this league, played in yellow. Brazil 1970 they were not. Reserve goalkeeper David Button, who sported a greasy Gallic combover despite hailing from Stevenage, exemplified the hesitancy that has left them within spitting distance of the Conference South. Clearly a graduate of the David James school of goalkeeping, he twice gifted Farrell golden opportunities while clearing his lines. Unlike the Portsmouth flapper last Thursday, he went unpunished: the clunky ‘Faz’ instead finding the top step of the sparse away terrace.
Ironically, the goal on 26 minutes was also an early Christmas present. Mark Robinson at left-back conceded position, the ball was whipped in lethally, controlled and squared by the dreadlocked Andre McCollin and slammed home by the snooping Thomas. The mood in the David Longhurst stand soured, aside from the Burberry-clad ‘firm’ Jorvik Reds – they do a mean ‘Dale Cavese’ – who continued with their mid-terrace shindig.
York replied creditably before half-time in their brightest spell, with McWilliams unleashing his right boot on a couple of occasions to keep Button warm. Farrell squandered the clearest chance, however, finding the goalkeeper’s languishing ankle instead of the net when set clean through. Foyle needed to re-evaluate effectively over the half-time cuppa and Jaffa Cakes.
He didn’t succeed. A non-event of a second half witnessed Grays content to defend as York nudged more and more players forward, substituted desperately and created very little. They did have the ball in the net, though McBreen was adjudged, correctly, to have clothes-lined the keeper in the act. The highlight was the interruption of a pitch invader, clearly influenced by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Cox on Sox’ period, who minced around the pitch unchallenged by steward or player.
York were exhausted and had nothing in reserve, they didn’t exactly pepper their opponent’s goal in the dying moments and were nearly caught on the counter-attack. At the final whistle, boos resonated, while in the far corner, the pocket of travelling fans huddled around the snack bar glow, could look forward to their long journey south. York must show rapid signs of improvement before facing Northwich Victoria in the FA Trophy next Saturday.
York City: Michael Ingham, Ben Purkiss, David McGurk, Daniel Parslow, Mark Robinson (Adam Boyes), Simon Rusk, Mark Greaves (Ben Wilkinson), Simon Russell (Adam Smith), Andy McWilliams, Daniel McBreen, Craig Farrell
Grays Athletic: David Button, Damien Batt, Jamie Stuart, Jon Ashton, Fabian Wilnis, Andre McCollin, Barry Cogan, Stuart Thurgood, Sam Sloma (Kenny Davis), Jamie Slabber (Scott Forester), Wesley Thomas