York City 2 Telford 0 - Report
It’s a commonly heard complaint in football that players are bound to score against their former clubs, and the Bucks had an unwelcome dose of that experience at Bootham Crescent.
Elliott Durrell played a handful of first-team games for the Bucks under Rob Smith and Larry Chambers over ten years ago, and has gone on to build a fine lower league football CV.
That culminated with a National League winners medal and promotion to the Football League with Macclesfield Town in 2018, and it says much about the resources at York’s disposal that Durrell has made only a few fitful appearances since signing as a free agent in September.
The Bucks, who had largely executed manager Gavin Cowan’s plan, were left rueing his late introduction in this game; Durrell popped up behind Ross White at the far post, and with his first touch of the ball forced home a left-wing cross beyond keeper Matt Yates in the 82nd minute. Few in the crowd were certain that the ball had gone in, but as Durrell wheeled away ecstatically behind Yates’ goal the penny dropped, and a wave of relief swept through the home crowd.
The Bucks, with an unchanged side for a third successive game, had given as good as they got in the opening half-an-hour of the contest, with some doughty defensive work preventing York from having any clear goalscoring opportunities. The success of Cowan’s game plan relies heavily on lone striker Matty Stenson holding the ball up and then bringing others into play, and neither the Bucks nor York committed too much to attack in the early stages.
The game’s first clear chance fell to the visitors, and they would have taken a shock lead had Theo Streete been able to direct his downward header from a corner at the far post; the big no.6 was possibly as surprised as anyone at City’s failure to identify his threat, and goalkeeper Peter Jameson would have been grateful to see the ball pass inches wide to his left.
York responded with an Alex Kempster shot from the edge of the box, the forward working room to shoot and seeing Yates stop but not hold his effort, the keeper grabbing the ball back from his line at the second attempt.
Set-pieces were providing the Bucks with the best opportunities, whilst for the home team former Buck Sean Newton was keen to try his luck from long range; he fired one effort over the crossbar and then found his range with a second effort, bringing a flying fingertip save from Yates for a corner kick. Their personal duel continued just before the half-hour, when a corner cleared to Newton was returned with interest, his raking low shot just wide of Yates’ right post as the keeper sprawled.
Midfielder Kieran Green warmed Yates’ palms soon after, the keeper holding his 30 yard free-kick, and then soon after Yates and skipper Shane Sutton collided, Bucks right-back Arlen Birch dragging Kempster back from a position just outside the left edge of the penalty area to avert the immediate threat and concede a free-kick.
York continued to look for the opening, but the Bucks persisted in slamming the door shut, and the away side saw another opportunity pass when a corner, won by Stenson’s tenacity, was headed wide by Sutton, City again marking poorly.
Yates was kept busy right up to the half-time whistle, turning Jordan Burrow’s shot on the spin wide at his near post, but for all their efforts York had nothing to show for them at the break.
The Bucks started the second half positively, and nothing City could offer had the quality to break their resistance. Green volleyed wide a corner cleared to him, and Streete did terrifically well to thwart Kempster when he looked set to get a shot away. At the other end, Jameson dropped to his knees to hold a low cross-shot from Brendon Daniels, the winger found in room by Stenson’s header, and for all that City were utilising the width provided by overlapping wing-backs Kallum Griffiths and David Ferguson the quality of their delivery was lacking, too often too close to Yates.
Both teams made forward substitutions, and both replacements were involved in near misses. The Bucks’ Aaron Williams brought a point-blank save from Jameson when he glanced a near post header on goal from Daniels’ low and hard free-kick delivery, and on 81 minutes, with City pressure growing, Macaulay Langstaff looked as though he’d missed the game’s golden chance; running onto a ball played through a tiring Bucks back line, he swept the ball goalwards as Yates came out to meet him and both watched as the ball passed wide of the keeper’s right post.
At that point, City manager Steve Watson, the ex-Newcastle and Everton defender, played what was to be his trump card, with Durrell’s introduction as a substitute, and barely a minute later he had prised a point out of the Bucks grasp.
Cowan made a double substitution, but it wasn’t to change the outcome, and on 89 minutes forward Burrow, well policed for most of the game, applied the coup de grace. A ball played for him to chase drew Yates from his penalty area, to City’s left. Burrow won the race and although forced wide, showed the quality and composure you’d expect from City’s full-time, big budget outfit, looking up and curling a terrific finish into the nearside top corner, Streete’s leap on the line unable to keep the ball out.
The Bucks had come close to leaving with a point, but instead left empty-handed. Whilst there’s an argument they ultimately paid for a lack of ambition, they had matched the home side for effort; however, it was City’s patience and extra quality that decided this contest.
AFC Telford United: Yates, Birch, White, Deeney, Sutton (c), Streete, Barnett, Walker, Stenson (Williams 67), McQuilkin (Knights 84), Daniels (Dinanga 84).
Unused substitutes: Martinez, Calder.
York City: Jameson, Griffiths, Ferguson, Newton, McNulty (c), Tait, Moke (Durrell 81), McLaughlin, Burrow, Green, Kempster (Langstaff 69).
Unused substitutes: Bond, King, Whitley.
Referee: Dale Baines.
Assistants: Benjamin Tomlinson; Matthew Bacon.
Attendance: 2,299 (55 from Telford).
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