Football firsts falter 4-0

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Given that Roses had been settled the day before, you might have forgiven York for going into this match with some measure of complacency. Their 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Lancaster in last year’s fixture, however, seemed to provide its own motivation and York set about their revenge.

The match began scrappily, with neither side able at first to find their rhythm and the only initial excitement coming courtesy of a toga-clad rugby player’s inexplicable decision to urinate in the Lancaster goalmouth. Lancaster’s decision to field what was effectively a 4-5-1 and York’s to field a 3-5-2 produced a packed midfield, frequently leading to stalemate before York eased into the game at around the ten minute mark.

York’s relative comfort in possession seemed to frustrate Lancaster, who gave away a series of needless fouls. Nevertheless, it was to be poor refereeing that provided York with their first real chance of the game. After York gained a free kick on the edge of the area, the resulting cross saw York striker Dom O’Shea rose above Tim Monshall to send a header wide of goal. With both sides preparing for a goal kick, the referee inexplicably awarded a penalty for a supposed shove on O’Shea, to the bemusement of both sides. Mark McLeod stepped up for York and slotted coolly past Dan Zimmerman to make it 1-0.

If Lancaster felt aggrieved at such a soft decision, they were left scratching their heads a few minutes later as Mark McLeod was given only a warning for his cynical scything-down of Lancaster captain Louis Rowlands, a dangerous challenge that deserved a booking at the very least. Lancaster’s subsequent booking for dissent can surely be sympathised with. To their credit, though, Lancaster threw themselves back into the game and continued to battle in midfield.

Determination was not enough, however. Striker Andrew Bingley had neither the pace nor the height to challenge York’s defensive line effectively; with Bingley alone up front most of the time, York could afford to devote two of their three centre backs to marking him out of the game, a sight which was distressingly frequent.

When he was able to hold up the ball, he received no support: Andrew Strachan, supposedly roaming behind him, was taken out of the game by York holding midfielder and penalty hero Mark McLeod, and there was scant service from the wings, with midfielder Alex Baldwin having a particularly torrid time for Lancaster and providing a stark contrast to York’s two marauding wing-backs, Ed Murrills and Ian McKellow.

Although the balance of play was at times fairly even, York looked just that bit more threatening in the final third and Lancaster’s defence was tested frequently, the pace of York striker Anton Murphy proving particularly troublesome. It seemed only a matter of time before York broke through, and their chance came at the half hour mark. A perhaps inevitable lapse in concentration from Lancaster’s under-pressure defence saw Ed Murrills come out on top in a goalmouth scramble to find the roof of the net.

Lancaster finished the first half the victims of two perhaps unjustified goals, but their inability to test York’s defence was their undoing. They came out in the second half with real purpose, but their failure to adapt their game-plan to York’s meant that the second half progressed much the same as the first.

The game was finally killed off on 70 minutes, when York striker Anton Murphy popped up with a looping header before throwing his shirt into the crowd, sprinting the length of the pitch, then sheepishly walking back to retrieve it.

If Lancaster’s frustration was understandable, there was no excuse for Andrew Bingley’s petulance shortly after York’s third goal. His repeated arguing with the referee earned him first a warning and then an entirely pointless booking for dissent, and perhaps summed up Lancaster’s performance.

York completed the rout shortly before full time, with O’Shea calmly rounding Zimmerman to pass the ball into the back of the net and make it 4-0. Although it was a match York dominated almost from start to finish, the referee’s early decisions to award York’s penalty and to keep York captain Mark McLeod on the field must surely leave Lancaster wondering how different it could have been on another day—or with another referee.

Lancaster (4-4-1-1): Dan Zimmerman (GK), Rob Parsley (RB), Andy Ibbotson (LB), Kieran Heaney (CB), Tim Monshall (CB), Alex Baldwin (RM), Alex Whelan (LM), Si Thompson (CM), Louis Rowlands (c) (CM), Andrew Strachan (AM/CF), Andrew Bingley (CF)

York (3-5-2): Andrew Emmerson (GK), Shaun Evans (CB), Greg Gardner (CB), Alex Cooper (CB), Ed Murrills (RWB), Ian McKellow (LWB), Mark McLeod (DM), Matt Witherwick (c) (CM), Joe Brennan (CM), Anton Murphy (CF), Dom O’Shea (CF)

Man of the Match: Ed Murrills.

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