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Lancaster men’s firsts drew 2-2 at the death against a resilient York side, who came from behind on both occasions to take a share of the spoils in the opening football fixture of Roses.
As Greg Rudkins-Stow (Lancaster) and James Davies (York) led the teams down from the changing rooms onto the pitch, they were greeted by a slightly out-of-place rendition of Nessun Dorma, while the obligatory pyrotechnics and handshakes ensued as kick-off drew ever nearer. The 3,000 strong, sea of red gave rapturous applause to both teams as they prepared to start the game.
For large periods of the first half, the tenacious Arron Martindale, playing on the left wing, quickly showed what a threat he can be, giving the York right back, Guy Bowden, a horrendous time out there. Martindale provided the cutting edge and promise which was somewhat lacking from both sides in the opening half as the nerves of the occasion overcame many.
It was clear that Lancaster hoped to exploit the speed and trickiness of Martindale and Callum Douglas who both provided a well-used out-ball on either flank. On multiple occasions Martindale profited from cutting inside offering the ball in the middle or shooting on one occasion – just going over.
The first ten minutes were relatively even, as both sides hoped to get a foothold in the game. A ball from the dependable left back Alex Williams, saw striker Rob Turner expertly guide his header into the York net, only for the flag to be raised and the goal disallowed.
The opener came soon after the disallowed goal, predictably from the attacking threat of Lancaster’s wide men. This time Douglas ran on to a high long ball which entered the penalty area, Douglas challenged with York’s keeper, Luke Bradley, and was able to just head the ball goalward over the oncoming goalkeeper. The result saw Bradley clatter into Douglas, missing the ball and giving referee Elliott Swallow no choice but to point to the spot. Penalty Lancaster, and a booking for the exuberant goalkeeper.
With hope and anticipation generating a nervous atmosphere around the ground, striker Turner stepped up and powerfully dispatched his penalty down the middle of the net – just too powerful for the flailing York keeper. 1-0 Lancaster and the crowd erupted with jubilation.
The remainder of the half boiled down a little, as both sides failed to get a stronger grip on the game. A number of scrappy tackles in and around the centre circle led to numerous needless fouls being given away by both sides. Callum Skinner, Lancaster’s number 4, on one occasion recklessly dived in nastily on Conor McCoy, rightfully receiving a yellow card after ending the game for the York left winger.
The second half began, much like the first finished, with no real opportunities to speak of. York however were gradually growing into the game, pressurising Lancaster’s back line for the first time. The usually trustworthy goalkeeper Pieree Aguillon had looked shaky on a few occasions in the first half, and flapped at a cross from the right wing, the ball landed at the feet of York’s captain Davies, who gladly converted to make it 1-1 and York were back in it.
With the crowd silenced, in part due to the bitterly cold conditions, Lancaster needed some inspiration to get themselves back in the game, as York were attacking well, particularly down Lancaster’s left hand side.
Lancaster never really settled into their preferred style of play, opting instead to play long balls to their wide men, or for striker Turner to hold up. By not getting Jack Stelling on the ball in the middle, they missed the opportunity to exploit an effective aspect of their play. Stelling could have been the catalyst to unlock York’s defense via his movement off the front men, offering a different option to the style Lancaster adopted.
However, it was the long ball that fortuitously put Lancaster back in the lead. A diagonal pass from Tom Rudnick was perfectly weighted for substitute Jamie Lovatt, unmarked by the York defence; appealing for offside. Lovatt latched on to the through ball with a great run, putting himself one-on-one against Bradley. He calmly slotted past the York keeper, keeping his composure to put Lancaster back in front. Once more the crowd rose to their feet, as players rushed to celebrate with the euphoric Lovatt.
With their noses in front, Lancaster failed to establish their dominance on the game, dropping their defence ever deeper and inviting York pressure. Aguillon was frequently called into service, saving well from some strong York attacks. As the game entered its final moments, Lancaster were staring at a Roses victory, only for a lapse in concentration from their defence, as a combination of failed clearances and weak tackles allowed York’s Davies to square it to the striker Bew, who sent York’s fans into delirium with a well-crafted equaliser.Lancaster had the victory in the palm of their hands, only to throw it away in the dying minutes.
Attacking central midfielder Jack Stelling spoke of the difficult playing conditions telling SCAN: “the pitch was a bit bobbly which was a bit unsettling given the nerves of the players. For some reason it had lots of sandy areas on it. Obviously we can’t simply blame the pitch; we didn’t play the quality of football we’re capable of. “
Lancaster’s Captain Ruskins-Stow was disappointed with the result but told SCAN “it was probably a fair outcome” making sure to commend the crowd who were “exceptional and they really helped us all out on the pitch.”