York 3-1 Fleet



Report by Allan Main

Ten years ago this weekend, York were entertaining – and beating – Manchester City in a league game. What their fans among the 1,997 crowd saw in the first-half today must have made them weep for better times. Unfortunately for the Fleet, however, a first-half in which they dominated was undone by two useful half-time substitutions by York boss Martin Foyle that set the home side up for a much-improved second-half in which they smashed three goals past the Fleet inside 17 minutes.

With Neil Barrett still out courtesy of an ankle injury, Karl Murray played alongside Craig Stone in the middle while James Smith returned to league action at the expense of Peter Hawkins. Luke Moore also reverted back to his preferred striking role, swapping positions with George Purcell who moved to the right wing. The changes looked to have given the Fleet a real impetus as they set about York in the opening minutes, forcing a couple of corners, keeping possession and generally bossing the game. The first drama arrived on six minutes when Luke Moore raced clear but was felled 20 yards out and the shout from the Fleet fans for a red card against the offender was waved away by referee Mr Curry.

York had a couple of half chances themselves despite a largely poor start but seemed to lack the confidence or experience to capitalise. Former Fleet favourite Onome Sodje struck a woeful shot on 11 minutes that flew well wide of the target while Andy McWilliams found himself dragging Lance Cronin out of position but instead of crossing to the better-placed Sodje or Richard Brodie either side of him, he thumped a weak shot straight into Cronin’s arms.

But the Fleet were slowly gaining territory and putting York on the back foot, with Danny Slatter taking advantage of room down the right to deliver crosses while the Moore-Gash combination up front was quick, lively and strong. Both were causing problems inside the box, Moore’s skill the perfect complement to Gash’s strength. And it was the latter who struck the opening goal on 26 minutes, his first in seven games, as another Fleet corner put the home side under pressure. Purcell delivered as far as David McGurk but his clearance was hoisted back into the centre where Gash, with his back to goal, shot on the turn from 12 yards out, giving goalkeeper Michael Ingham little chance. Gash’s delight was plain to see, but he earned a fifth yellow card – and a one-match suspension – for celebrating in front of the York fans.

With their tails up, the Fleet sensed a second goal in the offing and on the half-hour mark, Moore forced Ingham to tip his shot over the bar from a corner. Purcell delivered another killer corner in response, this time to the near post where Ben Purkiss was forced to scramble it off the line as Moore and Gash threatened to pounce on it. With Stone and Murray holding their own in midfield, strangling the life out of a somewhat narrow York formation, the home side barely got a look-in, struggling to free their front men who were finding Smith and Dean Pooley more than capable of snuffing out any challenge. Their one foray forward, on 41 minutes, saw Mark Greaves send in a decent cross which Smith rather hurriedly hacked over the bar and from the corner, with the Fleet defence rushing out, an unmarked Daniel Parslow – with all the time in the world – raced in to land a low header at Cronin.

The Fleet ended the half again in the ascendancy, Moore almost beating the offside trap to a stray ball and Purcell firing wide and more than deserved their lead at the break as York trooped off to a chorus of boos. The reaction was enough to goad Foyle into two changes before the second-half kicked off as he sent on wingers Adam Smith and Simon Russell. The effect was almost instantaneous, when Smith unsettled Sacha Opinel and won a free kick. Steven Hogg sent in a dangerous ball that whisked along the six-yard box and needed only a touch but York’s front men reacted too slowly. As it was, the ball could have crept in at the far post but Cronin managed to scramble it away.

But when Moore made way for Ricky Shakes on 52 minutes, the Fleet’s attacking desires seemed to fade. Purcell moved up alongside Gash but now York were finally putting the Fleet under pressure in midfield, Simon Rusk and Hogg pegging Stone and Murray back, while Slatter’s moves forward were countered by the home side’s new-found width which had the Fleet on the back foot. An ever-edgier defence gave away three free kicks in a short space of time and it encouraged York while simultaneously deflating the Fleet.

It was no surprise when the equaliser came on the hour. Hogg found himself wide and his cross into the six-yard box took most of the Fleet defence by surprise, allowing substitute Smith – on loan from Gainsborough – to crack home his first of the season. With that sucker punch, the Fleet visibly wilted and York looked like a completely different side. Brodie turned Slatter inside out but opted for an ill-judged shot when two of his teammates were better placed and then he headed just over after a good interchange by Sodje and Smith saw red shirts swarming about the Fleet box.

And it was on 67 minutes that York took the lead. Purkiss supplied the cross and Brodie finally executed a good finish, turning to plant a left-foot shot past the diving Cronin. By now the Fleet were chasing shadows and their goalkeeper had to be alert on 72 minutes later when a rejuvenated Sodje – who had seemed out of sorts in the first half – sent Brodie through again but his shot failed to beat Cronin. Another couple of corners for the home side kept the pressure on and Sodje made no mistake five minutes later when he performed an acrobatic scissors kick from McGurk’s cross that flew past Cronin to make it 3-1. Brodie -playing against the Fleet for the second time this season having been on loan at Barrow – continued to cause problems as he found himself on the end of Purkiss and Smith’s good link-up play on the wing, and he upset Opinel enough late on to earn the Frenchman a yellow card.

As York had in the first half, the Fleet hardly attacked throughout the second 45 minutes, Gash’s shot on 84 after good work by Shakes briefly threatening to upset the York dominance. Purcell blazed over two minutes later and Stacy Long finally stung Ingham’s hands with a shot from a free-kick at the end but by then the Fleet were well beaten and the home fans’ boos turned into cheers at the whistle as the Fleet were left to contemplate Christmas still in 12th place.

Cronin, Slatter, Opinel, Smith, Pooley, Murray, Long, Stone (Ibe 78), Purcell, Moore (Shakes 52), Gash. Subs not used: French, Hawkins, Ricketts.
Att: 1,997


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