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Amaroq

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  1. Thursday, 1st February, 2007. It was time for the monthly review with the board, and I was feeling confident. The side remained top of League Two despite our patchy run since late December, although we'd let the trailing clubs close up the gap. Cheltenham had made a rocket climb up the table, going from seventh to 3rd with 4 wins and 2 draws in the month of January, so they appeared deangerous, while Port Vale had gone unbeaten and untied, rising from 9th to 4th, where they had a game in hand over us: three more points and they would go from a playoff spot to top of the table. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Team Pts W D L GF GA GD GP 1 YORK 56 17 5 8 42 25 +17 (30) 2 Boston United 55 16 7 7 52 35 +17 (30) 3 Cheltenham 55 15 10 5 44 27 +17 (30) ----------------------------------------------------- 4 Port Vale 54 15 9 5 44 26 +18 (29) 5 Lincoln 52 14 10 6 47 30 +17 (30) 6 Cambridge 50 16 2 11 45 37 + 8 (29) 7 Walsall 49 13 10 6 45 22 +23 (29) ----------------------------------------------------- 8 Bristol Rovers 47 12 11 7 42 32 +10 (30) 9 Chesterfield 47 13 8 9 49 41 + 8 (30) 10 Leyton Orient 46 12 10 8 38 35 + 3 (30)</pre> Unfortunately, although the news on the pitch has been generally positive, the boardroom atmosphere was chilly and restrained. The congenial "we're all in this together" atmosphere which had ruled while we were struggling seems to have degenerated into a "them versus me" separation: I felt like I was facing a tribunal. The question of my contract never came up, left untouched as though by mutual consent, and the meeting focused on the challenges ahead. Ironically, Chief Financial Officer Sophie McGill was as content as I'd ever seen her. For the previous month, we'd just about broken even, leaving the same healthy £500,000 in the club's coffers prior to the payment of our loan. She did chidingly remind me that we're still over our wage budget, but that number has come down: we're only £61,000 per-annum over budget, a mere 12%, and she even said "Honestly, as long as we continue winning, I don't think anyone minds."
  2. Wednesday, 31st January, 2007. The news that John McGrath had suffered a high ankle sprain which would enforce at least a month's rest on him was bad news, especially as we still had yet to find a long-term replacement for him. For now, Phil Townley and, when he recovered, Jamal Campbell-Ryce would have to cover for him. Though we'd had bad luck on our pitch, we'd had good luck elsewhere, as Boston United had drawn at Lincoln, keeping us a point ahead of them in the standings. Better, Wolverhampton Wanderers had agreed to loan us left back Tony Craig for 3 months, which would take us almost to the end of the season and provide some decent cover for the injured Joe Keenan. D L Tony Craig, 21, English: 15 games with Notts County in League One, 6.07 - a brave and aggressive fullback with excellent concentration, Craig doesn't really approach Keenan's skills and abilities. However, he's quick, and a good marker, who makes solid decisions. I shouldn't expect him to contribute anything going forward, as his creativity, first touch, and finishing are all abysmal. Other than that he's pretty consistent across the board, which should make him better than Adam Eckersley. In other news, Manchester United, the largest team representing the Supporter's Trust movement at this point, fired manager Vicente Del Bosque. Apparently 3rd place in the tough Premier League wasn't sufficient for their demanding fans. The Wednesday evening Reserve match was another point in the recovery from injury for many of our players, with Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Lee Croft, and Joe Foote starting, and Mark Goodwin coming on off the bench. Though the side played very well in the first half, and fullback Mark Dixon's first-ever goal had put us ahead 1-0, the wheels came off in the second half as Carlisle Reserves netted two in a three-minute span to beat us 1-2. Wednesday night's transfer deadline came and went without any big moves from York City. In fact, our biggest change went the wrong direction, as Marc Walton's loan expired and he returned to Newcastle. Mark Walton, SC, 19: November 2006-January 2007: 1 season, 9 games, 5 goals, 1 assist, 7.11
  3. Saturday, 27th January, 2007. League Two - Game 30, vs Torquay United. Back on September ninth, we'd beaten Torquay 2-0 in their stadium, and a return match with them placed down in 16th didn't frighten me much, even with our defense in shambles. Their midfield was in even worse shape, with their assist-leading left winger Martin Phillips and number-two goalscoring central midfielder Alex Russell out injured. Worse, they were missing starting goalkeeper Anthony Williams, and one of their forwards, Dele Adebola was away on international duty for Nigeria. They did have one important milestone: captain Matt Hockley was playing in his 200th league game, all for Torquay. Our lineup was fairly straightforward. Alan Blayney made his 31st start in goal. The decimated defense included only one starter from Opening Day: Graeme Law at right back. He was joined by Adam Eckersley, Michael Staley, and Jamie Cooper, with Ian Bannister in the defensive midfield role. The front five were our top choice across the board, with John McGrath on the left wing, Jon Paul McGovern on the right, Robert Cousins and Micah Richards in the attacking roles, and Marc Walton the striker. It looked like Walton's last start, with his loan expiring on the 31st, as Newcastle had rejected my offer to renew his 3-month loan. It was raining, and both sides seemed to start out a bit tentatively. Each had chances - the Gulls with a couple of free kicks from out wide, where our fullbacks were having a bit of trouble, and us with a few shots from range that didn't trouble Torquay goalkeeper Alan Main. Unfortunately, we got into a bit of trouble when Marc Walton took a knock about 25 minutes in, and he was never right after that. I'd had little time to adjust when, in the 28th, Torquay earned a corner kick. Tony Bedeau sent a sizzling kick curling into the six-yard-box, where it was met by the head of Torquay's leading scorer Martin Gritton. Alan Blayney never had a chance, and the crowd of 2,863 were stunned into damp silence. The hard-tackling game continued, as both Gritton and Bedeau joined Walton in the playing-through-injury category before halftime. I wouldn't say it was vengeance, necessarily, but it seemed our players were hard tackling whenever Gritton got near the ball. By half-time, he'd had enough, and gave way for Rodney Jack, while I brought Simon Roberts in for Walton. I also told the lads to go get the two goals they needed, pushing forward in the second half. This worked a treat in the 51st minute, as Torquay was still looking to attack themselves. Micah Richards recovered a careless ball in our own area, and played it up for Robert Cousins. Cousins sent a lovely ball forward for Roberts, in one-on-one coverage with Kevin Hill, whom he beat in a straight sprint. With only the keeper left, the 16-year-old dribbled around 39-year-old Main to slot home his seventh goal of the season, and it was equal at 1-1! In the 66th minute, Adam Eckersley sent a long pass from the left flank to pick out Roberts on a diagonal run into the box. Again he was alone with Main, but this time the aged Scotsman came up with the save. Roberts pounced on the rebound, and looked certain to score, until Hill hauled him down by his shirt. There was no doubt about the yellow card and penalty that accompanied that foul, and a red card might have been warranted for the pure cynicism of it. The fans were on their feet as Jon Paul McGovern stepped confidently to the spot, but the wily Alan Main outguessed his countryman, diving to his right to make the stop! It was a blow, but we still looked the better side. With twenty minutes to play, substitute Tappa Whitmore worked his way up the left wing with Roberts. The young striker sent a low pass in for Cousins, who blazed it over from the 18 yard line. The visitors came right back with a chance of their own, as Rodney Jack slipped away from Michael Staley in our area, shooting to the near post from 9 yards but Alan Blayney made a fabulous save of his own, in full extension at the post to preserve the draw. In the 79th minute, John McGrath was taken out on a hard sliding tackle by Michael Small, and the match seemed to be getting out of hand with the injuries. We were down to ten men, and I told the lads to pin back and defend, which they did, providing a tortoise shell of a defense that limited Torquay to a few low-percentage long shots. Still, Stuart Boardley almost got lucky with one of these, a bending curler from the left edge of our area, which was pushed aside of the post by a diving Blayney. York 1, Torquay United 1 Roberts 51; Gritton 29 MoM: Blayney In the minds of everyone in our locker room, the missed penalty had cost us three points, and I was glad to see a number of the lads giving the disconsolate McGovern pats on the back and 'cheer up' comments: it was a sight better than the acrimony we'd experienced after the mid-week loss.
  4. Thursday, 25th January, 2007. I didn't jump straight into hiring an agent - there's some part of it that feels like it would put more pressure on the board, even escalate the tension .. and I don't really want this to turn into a protracted stalemate. Still, after talking it over with Viv and Stacy, they both gave me the same advice my Jamaican midfielder had. What's that old saying? The man who represents himself has a fool for a client.
  5. Wednesday, 24th January, 2007. Luckily, we'd entered the game with a four-point advantage in the League, so we were still top, but our lead was down to a single point over Boston United. We were still four clear of the playoff zone, and nine clear of the mid-table. There was good news on the injury front: Liam Fontaine had merely dislocated his shoulder, and physio Jeff Miller had managed to pop it back into the socket. He recommended giving the lad the weekend's game off and not letting him train very hard, until the swelling went down, but it wouldn't be a significant problem for him. As well, Jamal Campbell-Ryce had completed his physiotherapy course, though it looked like he might just be getting up to match fitness as his loan expired in mid-February. Campbell-Ryce played 20 minutes as our Reserves won their match 2-0 at home against Hartlepool Reserves. Forgotten man Thomas Carroll scored a first-half goal, and Lee Croft added the second during a tune-up appearance as a substitute. Youngster Kevin Eaton was Man of the Match for a strong performance in central defense. Barry Fry, the former Peterborough manager, has taken over the reigns at Barnet, down in the Conference National. Its strange to find myself managing above names that I recognize! He has quite a task in front of him, as Barnet are 20th, in debt, and demoralized.
  6. Tuesday, 23rd January, 2007. League Two - Game 29, at Kidderminster Harriers. A visit to Kidderminster, dead last in the League and looking certain for relegation, was exactly what we needed to recover from our injury blow. When we'd first faced the Harriers at Bootham Crescent, we'd beaten them 2-0: this side was a far cry from the Conference National champions of 1999/00, or the squad that had finished sixth in League Two two years ago. It was another mid-week game, and that meant a tired side, and so a squad selection well off my first choice. Alan Blayney remained our stalwart at keeper, with Adam Eckersley taking over at left back for the injured Keenan. Liam Fontaine would anchor the defense with Michael Staley, while Mark Dixon spelled Law at right back. Alan Navarro was captain from the defensive midfield role, with young Adam Corbett on the left wing and Phil Townley, energized by his goal on the weekend, starting on the right. Tappa Whitmore was no longer my first choice in the attacking midfield, but he was partnered with Joe Foote. The youngster was making his first start of the year, and wasn't yet up to match fitness after his injury. I could only hope the duo fed the ball to striker Paul Edwards, who had demonstrated an ability to find the net with 8 goals this season. In a cruel twist of fate, after our reconciliation yesterday, Liam Fontaine was injured in the 9th minute. In a shocking display of poor sportsmanship, the Harriers pressed on despite the man writhing on the ground, seeking to exploit the gaping hole in our defense, and only an alert play by young Mark Dixon averted trouble. That just made our lads angry, and they generated plenty of chances in the first half: Whitmore sent Edwards away with a beautiful long pass, but the one-on-one was saved by Kidderminster goaltender John Danby. Whitmore's curling top-drawer 22-yarder was saved in spectacular fashion, as Danby at full extension tipped it over the bar. Edwards's header just skimmed over the bar. At the other end, our defense looked good, and Dixon was having a fantastic game, really making a case for a starting role. When the whistle blew for half-time, it was still 0-0 and all to play for. I wanted to elicit a bit more pressure, so I told the lads to beging pushing the wings and fullbacks forward. Disaster struck nearly five minutes into the second half, as Iyseden Christie slipped past Michael Staley over the eighteen. Jamie Cooper let his man go to try and get over to help out, and Christie, rather than taking the shot himself, passed it ahead and to his right for Danny Cadamarteri. The Kidderminster captain should have been offsides, but was kept on by a mis-positioned Dixon, and that meant he had an easy easy finish to put the 2,037 Aggborough fans into delight. Kidderminster seemed content to hold the 0-1 lead, and played solid defense for the next 15 minutes, really stifling our best efforts. In the 66th, just as I was contemplating changing things around, Adam Corbett sent a cross from the left corner into a packed box. Kyle Nix tried to head it clear from the far post, but succeeded just in sending it back through the area. It fell to Joe Foote, who unleashed a spectacular volley from twelve yards. Unfortunately, it was straight at Danby, who blocked it in self-protective reflex. The rebound dropped to the feet of Paul Edwards, who touched it once around the sprawling Danby, and just at the post kept it from going out by tapping it gently into the net. Finesse work in close space, and it was 1-1! The final twenty minutes saw chances at both ends, with Adam Corbett breaking into the Kidderminster area only to be denied by Danby, and a period of five minutes of Kidderminster pressure ending on a corner kick, where Luke Dimech's powerful header banged back off the crossbar to the relief of Alan Blayney. It was still level in the 89th minute, when Alan Navarro blocked Stuart Jones's shot. The rebound kicked wildly out to Keith Gillespie on the right wing, and he managed to cross past Adam Eckersley to the near post. Adriano Rigoglioso took it at the corner of the 6-yard-box, and played a weak ball towards the post. There wasn't much on the shot - but Blayney couldn't quite get to it. Rigoglioso had his first goal of the season, and Kidderminster had a late 1-2 victory! Kidderminster 2, York 1 Cadamarteri 50, Rigoglioso 89; Edwards 66 MoM: Danby (Kidderminster GK) I couldn't help but think that if I'd had Joe Keenan and Graeme Law on the corners, neither goal would have happened, and we would have won that game 1-0. It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially on a goal so late. More frightening was what it did to our locker-room cohesion, as afterwards several players were pointing the blame, yelling at each other, and I had to play peacemaker to calm them down.
  7. Monday, 22nd January, 2007. I'd been worried how the injured Joe Hamill would take my comments to the press, but Viv told me that was exactly the right tone to take with him. Joe is in fine spirits despite the injury, sure of his place in the squad and determined to get back in form for next season. Even better news, however, Liam Fontaine came to visit my office Monday afternoon, and apologized for getting sent off. "I've been thinking about it, and I can understand the warning, now," he said. "I apologize for venting my frustration on you." I told him I couldn't say how much that pleased me, that I'd been sorry I was so harsh on him, and that I was glad it hadn't permanently soured our relationship, as I was counting on him to be the stalwart center of the York defense for years to come. Sunday night's game was York Under-18s against Accrington Stanley's U-18s. With the wage budget problems, our squad is small enough that our promising youths are playing mostly in the Reserves, so the only non-amateur on the side was goalkeeper Colin Hart. He earned a shutout, Paul Ford had a goal and an assist, and Chris Simpson scored an injury time goal to make a 2-0 victory. In somewhat shocking news, 34-year-old Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Middlesbrough striker, has joined Mansfield on loan. He scored 24 goals for Middlesbrough as a starter in 2004-05, but his playing time had diminshed until this season, he'd been reduced to four appearances, most from the substitute's bench, and accepted the deal just to get some playing time at any level. For Mansfield, languishing just above the relegation zone and steadily losing attendance, the deal would stir up some local interest and give them a credible offensive threat - I was just glad we'd already played them twice! I also read that Lee Morris, who is a teammate of Mark Wright's at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, has suffered torn knee ligaments, and will be out for two to three months. That looks to be stopping the former Minsterman at four goals for this season. On our training ground, Lee Croft resumed full training following his fractured ribs, which was good, as it gave us another healthy attacking midfielder for the rotation.
  8. aaberdeen - Thank you very kindly! It was one of my favourite tales that inspired me to start this, so I wish you all the luck with yours. Damien - thanks, did , and it was a beautiful ceremony. Strankan - thank you .. and we shall see! Now, lets see .. how about a double episode to make up for lost time?
  9. Adieu for a week or so - I'll be out of town for a good friend's wedding. Next post should be the 10th of August or so.
  10. Sunday, 21st January, 2007. "Well, I have some good news, and some bad news." That's not what I'd wanted to hear from Jeff Miller when I arrived at the hospital. I'd wanted entirely good news. "The good news is, nothing's broken. The bad news is, he's torn a calf muscle, and pretty badly. I think he'll be out for the rest of the season. I'm really worried, though, that if we let it heal badly, it might be a recurring problem for him." "What are our options?" "When the swelling's gone down, there's a doctor in London who I think should perform surgery." "What's the risk?" "If we don't perform surgery, he might be able to return in time for the playoffs if we have them, and ought to be recovered by the start of next season. But, there will always be the risk of further injury to it. If we do perform surgery, it means he's likely to miss the playoffs as well. Of course, it could actually shorten his recovery time, getting him back for the end of the season - or it could lengthen it, preventing him from joining us in the pre-season training next year." After careful consideration, and a conversation with Joe, we decided to recommend surgery. None of us wants to take the chance on him re-injuring it, and with the summer break looming, even a longer recovery seems a worthwhile thing to chance. Then I had to deal with the assembled media, in a press conference with Jeff and myself. First we announced the injury and our prognosis - out for the year. Then I had to deal with the questions. I deflected the first five or six - all directed at my future with the club. There was nothing to say, other than the obvious "I want to stay," and of course "We're all doing our best, and I don't want it to become a distraction." Finally, the wolves turned to the injury, and of course, I was asked the question "Joe Keenan is a key player for you. If he's out for the season, how much will the team miss his presence?" "It's certainly a blow, but I believe we have adequate cover for him in Adam Eckersley, who we're lucky to have." I didn't mention the next layer of cover - there was none. No, seriously, there is nobody else on the squad who plays left back, and I'm going to have to bring somebody in on loan.
  11. Saturday, 20th January, 2007. League Two - Game 28, vs Carlisle. Carlisle are our most familiar opponent, a side we've seen seven times in the past three years. Thanks to our F.A. Cup clash and replay, this was our fourth meeting this year alone. We'd had a four-game winning streak against them before being shut out in both F.A. Cup matches back in December. Though they'd beaten us then, Carlisle were having a torrid season which saw them down in 23rd, on a streak of nine games without a victory, and looking certain to be relegated unless something dramatic changed. I almost started the same XI who had beaten Hereford the previous week, but I wound up making a couple changes. Alan Blayney stayed in goal, with the same defense of Joe Keenan, Jamie Cooper, the unhappy Liam Fontaine, and captain Graeme Law. Fontaine was making the 50th league appearance of his career, all for York. Instead of Alan Navarro centrally I played Ian Bannister. The wingers were again John McGrath and Phil Townley, with Robert Cousins and Micah Richards in the attacking role. Up front, I switched Marc Walton in to give Edwards a brief respite. In the Cup matches, Carlisle had shown an aggressive 3-5-2 with an attacking midfielder, but coming to Bootham Crescent they looked like they were playing for a draw, with a timid 5-3-2. It was clear within 20 minutes that our usual conservative tactic wasn't going anywhere against their defense, and I began to push players forward, asking the fullbacks to join in the attack. The rain, which had been threatening all morning, started to fall just as I made the change. At the 28th minute, Joe Keenan's aggressive run made room for John McGrath into the left corner. He crossed into the packed box, where Walton was able to rise over everyone for a killer header that Matty Glennon barely turned over the bar by his fingertips. In the 39th, Keenan fed Phil Townley, whose shot from the eighteen Glennon also saved. Just before the half, Robert Cousins broke free down the right sideline. He centered with a low pass to Townley, who played it on to the unmarked McGrath on the left. From 12 yards, the Irishman unleashed a blinder, but Glennon came up with it again. At halftime, it was still nil-nil; we were piling on the pressure, but again found ourselves unable to make the finish. I was happy to see one thing, however: Liam Fontaine had received a yellow card on a very bad call, but just bit his tongue and walked away. It stayed scoreless through the hour, and in fact Carlisle nearly scored on a rare counterattack after bringing on Carlos Roca as a substitute. He sent a superb long pass over the top that sprang their leading scorer, Elvis Hammond, into our area. It looked dangerous, but Jamie Cooper made a perfect tackle to take it off his foot without conceding a penalty. The breakthrough finally came with fifteen minutes to play, as Keenan played a brilliant pass over our left winger and into space, where he'd seen substitute Paul Edwards on a run. At full sprint, Edwards ran it down just before it crossed the endline, doing well to keep his balance in the slippery conditions. With his first touch sent a cross in to the far post, where speedy winger Phil Townley was just arriving unmarked. The on-loan winger powered a header past Glennon and into the net, bringing the 3,211 to their feet for a 1-0 lead! Carlisle changed things around, looking in desperation for the equalizer, and we soaked up the pressure while piling on some of our own. In the 85th minute, Townley started a move from our area that saw Micah Richards play a long ball to substitute Tappa Whitmore. He entered the area unmarked, but Glennon smothered his shot. The wet ball rolled away from him, and Adam Corbett got to it once it was several feet clear of the far post - he almost got lucky from an impossible angle. Two minutes later, Tappa had another great chance unmarked in the area, but put it wide - an embarrassing miss that showed just how far my once-mighty star had fallen. Again, his teammates covered for the gaffe, ensuring that it wouldn't matter, as Corbett played a ball to Richards about 30 yards from goal. Marlon Dill had to choose between covering Edwards or closing down the man with the ball, but as soon as he left Edwards, Richards played a perfect pass for him. With no marker and in the area, Edwards coolly buried it to the near post to make it 2-0. The referee initially signalled two minutes of injury time, and if he'd stayed with that, it would never have happened. With my watch showing 92:31, we cleared away one last Carlisle foray.. but Joe Keenan was down on the ground in some obvious pain. I didn't see what had happened to him, but it didn't look good. York 2, Carlisle 0 Townley 76, Edwards 88; ---- MoM: McGrath There had been a jovial, jocular mood on the sideline and on the pitch after our two goals, but any inclination to celebrate was gone as we awaited news on Keenan's injury. He'd been taken to hospital, and I had to dismiss the lads before we'd had word. I went over to the hospital myself, my heart heavy.
  12. Friday, 19th January, 2007. "Why don't you hire an agent?" I stared at Tappa in surprise. "Uh.." "You have to be the only manager in the League without one," the playmaker told me. "I hadn't .. thought of it, I guess." "How can you be so good on the pitch, and such a fool off it?" the Jamaican asked in wonderment. "Aren't agents, you know... slime?" "The clubs would love to have the fans believe it, but no, mon. The agent's job is to look after his man. You know that. So of course the clubs don't like them." I had nothing to say to that. He was right, of course, and while I'd seen my share of agents convinced that their player was worth more than I thought he was, there were also a good number who'd been gentlemen. Afte a minute or so, Tappa broke the silence. "Mine's good."
  13. Wednesday, 17th January, 2007. "I just want to make sure we understand each other." Steve Beck had summoned me to his office. "I promise, you'll have a new contract, you just have to wait until the end of the season." "So you've said," I answered, noncommittally. I'd really liked Mister Beck, prior to this contract discussion - I guess the fact that he's tight with the pursestrings is part of the reason he's a good choice for chairman. "If we both understand each other, let's keep it out of the media. Its bad press for the club, and obviously distracting to the players." "Oh, I'm not the one talking to the press," I answered. That clearly came as a surprise to him, and took the teeth out of the discussion. "See that you don't, then," he said, and stood to usher me out. The spate of firings around English football continued, as teams began to see managers freed up that they might want to pursue. Burnley, the 23rd-placed side in the Championship (and home of Levent Yalcin) fired their manager, as did Macclesfield Town down in the Conference National. Jon Paul McGovern's trouble continued on Tuesday, as he strained his neck going for a header in training, and that would cause him to miss our next match, the second in a row for the 26-year-old. At Morecambe on Saturday, the York Under-18s defeated Morecambe U-18s in dramatic fashion, 2-1. Amateur substitute Chris Simpson's goal had given York a 1-0 lead in the final 20 minutes, but in the 87th Ian Bannister conceded an own goal. It looked a sure draw, but deep in injury time, Joe Foote's cross found Aaron Dennis at the far post, and the amateur midfielder put it away to make the 2-1 final. With only seven matches remaining, they'd closed to within two points of the once-unbeatable Blackburn U-18 side. It was the York All-Injury squad in Wednesday's Reserve match at Rochdale: Tappa Whitmore, Joe Foote, and Thomas Carroll all started, with Nick McDonald in goal and a now-recovered Mark Dixon as the captain. On a day barely above freezing, neither side could find the net, and the final result was a 0-0 draw, which at least helped usher some of our lads back towards match fitness.
  14. Saturday, 13th January, 2007. League Two - Game 27, vs Hereford United. Hereford were the Conference National champions in 2004/05, and placed 15th in League Two last season. This year, they lie 17th, with the third-weakest offense in the League. However, they've managed to win 8 games to stay comfortably clear of relegation, and have a four-game unbeaten streak. They've also beaten us in our last two meetings, both 2-1 at Hereford, one in the Conference in February of '05, and the other this season in August. With the two suspended players, our lineup was as follows: on-form Alan Blayney in goal, Joe Keenan on the left flank, Jamie Cooper partnered with Michael Staley in central defense, and captain Graeme Law on the right. Alan Navarro was the holding midfielder, and on the wings, loanee Phil Townley would be opposite John McGrath, who was making his 50th league appearance for York. Robert Cousins and Micah Richards were partnered in the attacking midfield, with Paul Edwards on his third straight start at striker. A steady rain was falling at Bootham Crescent, but it took us only 31 seconds to mount the first threat. Edwards fed Micah Richards in the area, and he sent a half-volley inches wide. However, the majority of the chances that followed went to the visitors. Tom Smith sent a dangerous cross into the box for Noel Hunt, who headed just over. In the 23rd minute, Andy Williams shot from range. Michael Staley threw himself in front of the shot, but the rebound fell to Danny Carey-Bertram. Blayney got behind the shot, but couldn't hold onto the wet ball, and Noel Hunt looked certain to score until Jamie Cooper's last-ditch tackle cleared the danger. Carey-Bertram had two more good chance, once met by Staley's desperation tackle, and the second stopped by Blayney's fine save. In the 42nd minute, Hunt hit the bar from nine yards. It was a relief to catch our breath at halftime - if you're thinking all that was Hereford pressure, you're absolutely right. They were piling on the pressure, and I couldn't see standing steadfastly in defense any longer. I asked the lads to start pushing forward, to challenge Hereford in midfield and try to hold the pressure in their zone if only to give the defense a breather. This led to a noticeable sea change, as Hereford relented a bit - for the first time, they were forced to think about defense. We earned a corner in the 51st minute, and without McGovern, Joe Keenan stepped over to take it. He played it to Phil Townley at the near post, and he shot into traffic from ten yards. Jonathan Gould made the first save but the rebound fell right to Graeme Law. Rather than take the obvious shot, he took a tight angle back to the unguarded near post, and found the net for the first goal of his career. With the tactic working, I left it unchanged, and the next ten minutes were constant York pressure with the crowd of 2,778 on their feet and cheering. Cousins, Edwards, and then McGrath each came close, and then Townley earned a corner kick. The rain was really streaming down as Keenan stepped up to take it, and Micah Richards tried the same near-post run that had worked for Townley in earlier. This time Malawi defender Tamika Mkandawire fouled him, and the referee awarded a penalty! Paul Edwards took it, and buried it to the keeper's right, making it 2-0! Hereford United nearly got one back immediately, on a corner kick minutes later, but Hunt's header from just outside the xi-yard box skimmed the crossbar on its way over. We came right back, with Tappa, who had declared himself fit to come off the substitutes' bench just as I was chosing a lineup, setting up Richards at the top of the arc. A wicked shot to the lower-right corner forced a top-drawer save from Gould. In the 77th minute, Hunt set up Andy Williams 25 yards from our goal. Staley won the challenge, but put it right to Karl Curtis, who one-timed it back into the space Staley had just vacated. Williams was the first one there, and drilled it home from 15 yards to narrow the deficit to 2-1. Both sides had spectacular chances in the closing minutes: Hunt hit side netting for Hereford, Whitmore broke free on a breakaway only to see it saved by Gould, Richards had another shot to the corner saved by Gould, and then Hereford United's Tom Smith sent a long cross from deep that carried over everyone, only to hit off the crossbar. By injury time, Hereford was sending everybody forward in a desperate bid to equalize, and as we've seen so many times that opened space up at the back. Our 5-on-3 counter-attack became a 3-on-1 breakaway. Richards had two teammates wide open and a defender on him, but chose to shoot, and it was no surprise that effort went wide wasting a great opportunity. Moments later, however, the final whistle blew, and judging from the crowd's chant we were back top of the table. York 2, Hereford 1 Law 51, Edwards pen 70; Williams 77 MoM: Gould (Hereford GK) Indeed, in the locker room a radio carrying the League run-down indicated that 4th-placed Lincoln had scored three second-half goals to beat Cambridge 3-1, and we were back atop the table. Jonathan Gould earned Man of the Match honors for the visitors for making 8 solid saves over the course of the game, while Navarro, McGrath, and Edwards had played well on our side of the ball.
  15. Friday, 12th January, 2007. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Fans Demand Extension Minstermen Supporter's Club president Alex Hunter issued a statement signed by more than 500 York City supporters calling on the Supporter's Trust to extend Ian Richards's contract. "Its time for the board to recognize the job Ian has done in just two years," the petition read. "He deserves better than seeing out a lame-duck contract, and the club can certainly afford a raise commensurate with his status as a League manager." </div></BLOCKQUOTE> I shook my head, discarding the paper without even finishing the article. No good could come of bandying it about in the press like this. If it were up to me, we'd do everything behind closed doors. Nick McDonald and Thomas Carroll made their respective returns from injury in Wednesday's Reserve match. The young goalkeeper was particularly distressed, as if he hadn't been injured when Blayney had, he might have gotten the first-team chances instead of Kevin Butler. I could only hope that would make him determined to impress. The match was at Crown Ground against Accrington Reserves, and Marc Walton pronounced himself match fit after scoring one goal, creating another via an own goal, and earning Man of the Match honors in only 45 minutes. Carroll took over for him in the second half; McDonald lasted 65 shutout minutes, and even more encouraging, Joe Foote's physiotherapist had recommended a few low-impact minutes at the end of the match as his first step back towards competitive football. The final score: York Reserves 2, Accrington Reserves 0. In the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals, on the same day, Liverpool defeated League One Cinderella side Bradford City, 3-1, and Blackburn beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. I'd been planning on starting Mark Goodwin at right wing for the suspended McGovern on Saturday, but that plan went out the window when he dislocated his jaw in training on Thursday. I'd had an odd intuition not to start Adam Corbett in the week's Reserve match, and that turned out to be the correct move now, as I only had three healthy, eligible wings for the Hereford match.
  16. Tuesday, 9th January, 2007. Alan Blayney's superb performance in goal also earned him a nomination to the League Two Team of the Week. Well deserved, and the first time he'd won that in a York jersey, though he had been twice named while on loan to Yeovil during the 2005 season. Cambridge has recovered their form and won their last two matches, so the draw put us back down to second place, a point behind with twenty games yet to play. Luckily, the F.A. decided that Fontaine's suspension would only be for one match. I gave him a formal warning however, telling him that I don't care what the referee said to you, I don't ever want to see my players sent off for arguing with the referee. He thinks I'm being horribly unfair, but honestly! He charged the referee in a fit a rage - I'd have been well within my rights to fine him, I informed him, and left the matter at that. I can only hope the incident hasn't poisoned my relationship with one of my starting defenders. At least a match against 17th-placed Hereford was a good one for our lads to serve their suspensions on. There were a wave of mid-season managerial sackings Sunday morning, most notably Mick McCarthy of Sunderland, who found 14th place in the Premier League was uncomfortably close to relegation for his board. Conference sides Northampton and Barnet, and Conference South side Bath City, all felt a need for a change as well. I've come to a loan arrangement sending right back Daniel Smith, my third-string, to fellow League Two side Chesterfield for the duration of the season. His contract is expiring, and I've been unable to pay him what he thinks he's worth, so it really isn't worth my while to continue investing training time in him. I'd slipped a guaranteed-fee clause into the deal, and hoped Chesterfield would exercise it to bring the player over full-time.
  17. Saturday, 6th January, 2007. League Two - Game 26, at Peterborough United. Peterborough offered a bigger challenge, a League One side last year, on a four-game unbeaten run, sitting 13th in the table, and at home. We'd beaten them twice already this season, 2-1 in a friendly and 3-0 in a League match, but both of those had been at Bootham Crescent. The city is near Cambridge, due north of London along the A1, and due east of Birmingham. With both our injury crisis and our fixture congestion beginning to abate, I got to select a side much closer to my ideal XI. Alan Blayney was back in goal, with a defensive line of Joe Keenan, Liam Fontaine, Michael Staley, and Graeme Law. Alan Navarro would anchor the midfield, with John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern on the wings. Robert Cousins and Micah Richards, the only two healthy attacking midfielders, were the clear choice, with Paul Edwards starting at striker despite playing a full ninety minutes on Monday. A steady drizzle was falling at London Road, a reminder of the swampy nature of that area before landfill began. Peterborough came out in a defensive 4-4-2 with a holding midfielder, bringing all eleven players back to defend against corner kicks and free kicks in obvious deference to our top-of-the-table status. It worked - it was a stifling tactic that led to few chances for either side. Our best opportunity came in the 37th minute on a free kick, played out to Micah Richards at the top of the box. He drilled a long-range effort curling to the top-right corner, but Andy Oakes made a brilliant fingertip save to divert it over the top. In the 39th minute, just outside our 18-yard box, Liam Fontaine went in on Tony Dinning with a dangerous two-footed challenge, and Mr. Rawcliffe gave Fontaine a yellow card. The wet pitch may have made it appear more dangerous than it was, but Fontaine disagreed with the call, and was given a short lecture. He was walking away when the referee must have said one last thing, because suddenly Fontaine charged back at him, furious, and earned his red card. I was afraid he was going to slug the referee and earn a lengthy suspension, but he just walked off the pitch. I sent Alan Eckersley on for Edwards, moving Keenan to a central defense role. Blayney saved Dinning's effort from the resultant free kick, but no more than five minutes later, Mr. Rawcliffe blew the whistle again, this time citing Eckersley for backing into Armstrong on an aerial challenge just at the 18-yard-line. Worse, he pointed to the spot, and my lads were about ready to boil over!! Dinning stepped up confidently to take the penalty, but Blayney guessed right and came up with the save! After another questionable yellow card during injury time, I spent all of half-time trying to calm the lads down, reminding them "A scoreless draw is a fine result here. Just don't get yourself sent off: we won't do so well with nine men." I got a real scare in the 52nd minute when Blayney went walkabout, turning it over to Michael Proctor, who was pressuring him. Proctor failed to shoot while the net was open, letting Blayney scramble back into position. Then he shot, ignoring an open Dinning on the far-post run, and Blayney made another fine save to deny him. Two minutes later, it was Proctor again, this time getting above Law about 17 yards from goal to head Ahmed Deen's long ball on. Blayney was charging out just as Proctor got his head to it, but made an amazing reaction save to tip it high into the air. It still looked goal-bound, but carried just over, landing on the top netting. Just as it was beginning to feel like one-way traffic, Micah Richards's long pass picked out McGovern impossibly free behind the last defender. He drove in on goal, but again Oakes came up with a fine save. It gave me a feeling of confidence, and as we continued to hold our own through the 70th minute, I decided to try something daring, pressing my backs and wingers forward in mimicry of our 'aggressive' tactic. To nobody's surprise, that turned a defensive affair into an offensive slug-fest, with both sides getting plenty of shots off. Blayney continued his fine play, twice coming out to cut out dangerous crosses near the penalty spot, and making one more good save. McGovern picked up a yellow card on the 78th minute, but in the 80th Townley's ball from our own half broke young Simon Roberts free from the mid-way stripe. He had only one man to beat. He got into the box, and made his man miss, only to put the shot over at the last instant! The final minutes and injury time were real heart-pounding stuff, with both sides feeling on the verge of breaking off the game-winner, but neither could come up with a breakthrough. Peterborough 0, York 0 ----; ---- MoM: Blayney Alan Blayney thoroughly deserved his Man of the Match award after a fantastic performance in goal - I told him how glad we were to have him back. A draw after going a man down in the first half was realistically a good result, but missing Fontaine and McGovern, who would be suspended for his fifth yellow card, was going to make our next match that much harder.
  18. Thursday, 4th January, 2007. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">No Contract for Richards York City chairman Steve Beck today confirmed yesterday's report from an unnamed source: manager Ian Richards has asked for a new contract, and was turned down this week. The stellar young skipper has done a tremendous job to revive the troubled club, leading the Minstermen from the Conference up to knocking on the door of League One, and the fans - Beck's employer in the Supporter's Trust agreement - will be shocked. "Though we have not given him a new contract today, we recognize that Ian has been a visionary who turned the club around," Beck said. "We don't want to let this become a distraction, and I gave him my personal promise that we'll have a new contract in place before this one expires." </div></BLOCKQUOTE> The press had gotten wind of the discussions - and I hadn't told them. That means a leak from the board, right? On Wednesday, injured goalkeeper Alan Blayney made his return to the pitch, playing 45 minutes in a Reserve match tune-up against Crawley at Bootham Crescent. He didn't play all that well, conceding a goal as the Crawley Reserves beat York Reserves 2-0. A 21-year-old striker named Adam Kerley impressed, scoring both goals for Crawley. Marc Walton also got back on the pitch late in that one, playing the final 25 minutes. Thursday's big news was that famous English manager Glenn Hoddle had been hired by Derby County, currently 14th in the Championship. His last position was at Coventry City, whom he took over as they were on the path to relegation from the Championship, and then brought back up the following year as League One winners, before getting fired mid-October.
  19. Tuesday, 2nd January, 2007. With my heart in my throat, I met with Jeff Miller to get his report on my injured players. Luckily, subbing Robert Cousins off so early had prevented any further injury, and he'd be fine with a bit of light training this week. The diagnosis of fractured ribs on Lee Croft was correct - he'd miss most of the month of January. Jamaican winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce was the worst injured of the group, with strained knee ligaments that Jeff recommended be seen by a specialist, and might keep him out for the duration of the loan arrangement, which was due to expire in mid-February. Even the news that chairman Steve Beck was pleased with the 2-0 win couldn't quite assuage the wounds: I wasn't convinced it was worth the cost, but at least the serious injuries had happened to men in on loan, and not to our long-term prospects. The monthly review of training helped dramatically: maybe it was the two days off for Christmas, or maybe it was the adjustments I'd made to the training schedule, but we were seeing dramatic, almost incredible improvement across the board. Defender Joe Keenan was the most improved, with a huge step forward that was unexpected for a man of his age. Michael Staley's had a similar giant improvement, which reversed a slight trend of decay, while Micah Richards broke out of a long doldrum with a huge leap forward, and Alan Navarro was similarly trending up. With more improvement than we'd seen from anyone on the team in October were Robert Cousins, Campbell-Ryce, Malcolm Parker, Phil Townley, and Thomas Carroll. Mark Dixon's fantastic play Monday was a sign of how much he'd stepped forward, and in fact he was one of the most improved players on the side, after Jamie Cooper. Mark Goodwin and Simon Roberts made big strides forward to hit their personal peaks, and Tappa Whitmore was showing his first improvement since the injury. Making strides that would have earned note in other months, but were in fact small for the side as a whole this month were Joe Foote, Jon Paul McGovern, Marc Walton, Graeme Law, Adam Corbett, John McGrath, Liam Fontaine, and steady improver Paul Edwards. Among the goalkeepers, Alan Blayney had made the biggest improvement he'd had since joining the club. He seemed to have resolved whatever issue was slowing his progress before, and youngster Colin Hart was making rapid progress as well. In other news, Arsenal striker Thierry Henry was named World Footballer of the Year. Despite his fantastic performances in the World Cup and Champions League, Roque Santa Cruz really missed out on the major awards, though he did collect third place in the European Striker of the Year balloting.
  20. Monday, 1st January, 2007. League Two - Game 25, at Mansfield Town. A visit to 22nd-placed Mansfield was just what the doctor ordered after two defeats, but the ten outfield players who'd been on the pitch just two days prior would be too tired to go again. Mansfield have bounced around League One and League Two since 1958, with only a one-year appearance in the Championship back in the seventies after winning the Division Two title the previous year. They narrowly missed relegation last season, coming 21st, and this season they are 22nd, four points clear of the relegation zone. With wholesale changes, the lineup was: Kevin Butler starting for the injured Blayney in goal, with Joe Keenan, Michael Staley, Jamie Cooper, and Mark Dixon across the back four. Ian Bannister was the defensive midfielder, with John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern, in his 50th league showing for York, providing some veteran leadership from the wings. Exhausted attacking midfielders Robert Cousins and Lee Croft were asked to start anyways, and Paul Edwards was the striker. Mansfield had opted to start their exhausted starting lineup nearly across the board: it would be an interesting test of talent versus condition. Mansfield tried a pressing, active defense, closing down with multiple players in all areas of the pitch. No wonder their starters were so fatigued! For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, while they had fresh legs, this gave us fits - it was tough to get anything done with two defenders charging down on you. The other aspect of their defense was some hard tackling, and by the twentieth minute, Viv Busby pointed out that Robert Cousins had picked up a knock and seemed to be limping. I couldn't risk further injury to our leading scorer and star player, so I took him off, putting Mark Goodwin on the right wing and moving McGovern up to attacking midfield. In the 28th minute, John McGrath's pass sprang loanee Lee Croft into the area unmarked - the danger of the closing-down strategy was that it always seemed to leave somebody unmarked. Croft's shot was deflected by goalkeeper David Lucas, and trickled across the goalmouth before rolling just wide of the far post. McGovern took the corner kick, and played to to Croft. His shot was blocked, and ricocheted back wide to McGovern, who laid it back for Ian Bannister unmarked at the top of the area. The young defensive midfielder drilled it to the near post, a shot that threaded its way through three defenders and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead! For the most part, we were controlling the ball in midfield, but a throw-in deep down our left flank for Mansfield led to a great chance. Simon Ramsden sent it in to Chris Brown, who'd found an unmarked pocket of space just outside of the six-yard box. Butler dover to tip away his effort, and Mark Dixon cleared the rebound off the line. Andy Parkinson got the rebound on our left flank, and crossed for Kevin Warner at the opposite post. With Butler still picking himself up off the turf, Warner headed on goal, but somehow Dixon had scrambled back across the goalmouth to interpose himself between Warner and the open net. Desperate defending, but the youngster had really impressed - and his play got a counter-attack started, a beautiful 5-on-3 chance. John McGrath was the unmarked man entering the area, but he blazed it over. In injury time of the first half, Lee Croft and Paul Mitchell went in hard for a loose ball, and both wound up writhing on the ground as the referee whistled for half-time. Physio Jeff Miller had about five minutes with Croft, but then told me he'd cracked ribs, and I'd have to change him off. Two injuries already! I put Jamal Campbell-Ryce on, and that made two wingers playing attacking midfield. We had another 5-on-3 break early in the second half, but Campbell-Ryce struck the post from 16 yards. We were still looking in complete control, but on the 56th minute, Campbell-Ryce collided with Alex Neil, and went down clutching his knee. Our third injury of the afternoon left the Jamaican unable to continue, and I was out of midfielders of any description on my bench. I brought on young striker Simon Roberts as an attacking midfielder. Both he and Paul Edwards were denied by Lucas's goalkeeping between the 60th and 69th minutes, and it was still a 1-0 game at the 70-minute mark. That was when Mansfield brought three pairs of fresh legs on, mostly in the attacking third, and I told the lads to hole up and play defensively, only looking for the counterattack if opportunity presented itself. Opportunity did, in the 76th, as after a Mansfield corner kick, six York players streamed forward in the counter. Mark Goodwin's superb pass fed the unmarked McGovern into the area, but David Lucas did very well to parry the Scotsman's shot. The rebound fell directly to Mark Dixon, with a great chance at his first professional goal, but he hurried the shot and put it wide. He was absolutely kicking himself as he hurried back to get in position, but it turned out not to matter. Two minutes later, McGovern's excellent craft and vision found Edwards with one man to beat. The striker's deft first touch made space for himself, and he slipped a cheeky shot through the keeper's legs to make the final score 2-0. Mansfield 0, York 2 ----; Bannister 29, Edwards 78 MoM: McGrath We'd utterly controlled the match, especially in the midfield, and had peppered the Mansfield goal with shots. Hard-working John McGrath was Man of the Match, though McGovern, Dixon, or Staley might have been my choice. It was a relief to put our brief losing streak behind us, and a boost to the side's faltering morale to get a win on the road, but I was in no mood to celebrate with the prospect of being reduced to just one healthy attacking midfielder on the roster.
  21. Monday, 1st January, 2007. Before leaving for our afternoon match against Mansfield, I had the monthly meeting with the board. Despite our three-games-without-a-goal streak, they are very excited about our prospects: we're still first place in the League! I told them I'd expected our run of victories to come to an end with a few losses like this, and that it was a natural correction; we hadn't been as good as we'd been showing in November, honestly. The recent slump of form by the top two teams had dramatically closed up the top of the table: only 5 points separated the top spot from the 8th-placed, don't-even-make-the-playoffs position. It was shaping up to be a dramatic second half of the season! <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Team Pts W D L GF GA GD 1 YORK 45 14 3 7 34 21 +13 2 Cambridge 44 14 2 8 38 29 + 9 3 Boston United 43 13 4 7 32 30 +12 ----------------------------------------------- 4 Leyton Orient 43 12 7 5 32 22 +10 5 Walsall 41 11 8 5 41 20 +21 6 Lincoln 41 11 8 5 34 21 +13 7 Cheltenham 41 11 8 5 31 21 +10 ----------------------------------------------- 8 Bristol Rovers 40 11 7 6 34 23 +11 9 Port Vale 39 10 9 5 31 23 + 8 10 Chesterfield 37 10 7 7 37 30 + 7</pre> Chief Financial Officer Sophie McGill was quite pleased. For the month of December, we'd earned about £50,000 on merit, plus our transfer income, which gave us a monthly net of £504,000, leaving us up three-quarters of a million for the season, with a healthy £500,000 in the club's coffers prior to our January loan payment. Per the Supporter's Trust arrangement, most of that was released back to the club as transfer budget, leaving me with £337,000 to spend - but a reminder that we're already over the wage budget, and I won't be allowed to increase the wage bill dramatically. I figured that made a contract renewal a shoe-in, so it came as a real slap in the face when Steve told me otherwise, and in front of the entire board! "Listen, Ian, we've talked over your request for a contract extension, and we'd like to place that discussion on hold until the end of the season." "What?!" "Your current contract runs through the end of June. We'll talk extension in May after the season is over, you have my word."
  22. Funny you should mention it:
  23. Sunday, 31st December, 2006. After the match, we held a going-away party for those players who were stepping on from Bootham Crescent to bigger and better things. After two straight defeats and my tongue-lashing postmatch talk, you might have thought the atmosphere was down, but the news had come in that Cambridge had been hammered 4-0 by Bristol Rovers, so we remained top of the table. The players we were bidding adieu to were Jon Shepherd, sold to Manchester City on a Supporter's Trust-record £350,000 (the club's overall record is the £950,000 transfer received from Sheffield Wednesday for Richard Cresswell back in 1998), Mark Wright, off to Inverness CT for £100,000, and Richard Fox, sold to Southampton for £85,000. Our net wasn't as simple as summing the totals, however, as Montrose earned 25% of Shepherd's transfer fee, a mammoth sum for such a small club, and Walsall had a 20% sell-on clause on Richard Fox, while we had a friendly with Premiership side Southampton to look forward to next summer. Still, the total sale value was £535,000, of which £427,000 accrued to the club's coffers immediately. Jon Shepherd, SC, 19: July 2006-December 2006: 1 seasons, 19 games, 4 goals, 5 assists, 7.21 Mark Wright, DC, 19: August 2005-December 2006: 2 seasons, 48 games, 2 goals, 7.08 Richard Fox, AM RL, 17: August 2006-December 2006: 1 season, 9 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 MoM, 7.00 I gave them a speech about how much we at York City were grateful for their contributions, and told the assembled group that I didn't want to stand in anybody's way, professionally: that though we as a team might miss the individuals, both on and off the pitch, that these steps up were the best thing for their budding careers, and I wouldn't have agreed the deals if I didn't think so.
  24. Saturday, 30th December, 2006. League Two - Game 24, vs Rochdale. Rochdale have been a perennial League Two side, literally occupying a spot in that division since 1959 for all but a brief 5-year stint in League One during the early '70's. They've been struggling lately, finishing somewhere between 18th and 21st the past four seasons, but they've avoided relegation each time. They lie 18th now, and we'd beaten them twice already this season, once in the season opener and once in the Vans Trophy, by a combined score of 4-1. It was a swan-song for two of our players, as I gave Mark Wright and Jon Shepherd the honour of starting in their final match at Bootham Crescent. Kevin Butler started in goal for the injured Blayney. His defense was Adam Eckersley, Liam Fontaine, Wright, and Graeme Law. Alan Navarro was the defensive midfielder, while two loanees, Phil Townley and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, played right and left wings respectively. Micah Richards and Lee Croft were partnered in the attacking midfield, and Shepherd was the striker. There was added buzz in the locker room before the game, as it was rumored that a scout from Newcastle United had come to watch Robert Cousins. At home against a weak team, we were the pressuring side from the opening kick-off, but Rochdale's defense held tough through the first ten minutes, giving us few good opportunities. We were missing a lot of our veterans up front, and that final killer ball was lacking. In the 13th minute, Graeme Law took a throw-in deep in Rochdale territory on the right side. Jamie Clarke intercepted for the visitors, and sent a long pass through the rain, over everyone. Despite three defenders back and well-positioned, Rochdale number nine Grant Holt outran them all to the ball. Mark Wright was in close attendance as he reached the arc, and Kevin Butler was rushing out, but Holt shielded Wright off the ball and shot from the eighteen, catching Butler mid-stride and it was 0-1, not the start we'd hoped for by any means. We maintained constant pressure throughout the first half, but couldn't get any results. Our best chance may have come in the 42nd minute, when Lee Croft launched a blistering first-touch shot from the top of the arc, but it clipped the bar on its way over the net. At halftime, I told the wings and fullbacks to begin pushing forward, and the second half was played almost entirely in the Rochdale half. With no goal by the 65th minute, I made all three substitutions, and the fans cheered as young phenom Simon Roberts and leading scorer Robert Cousins took the field. The cheer was even louder seven minutes later, however, when Rochdale countered by putting on a 40-year-old Teddy Sheringham. He was well past his prime, but can still use that wonderful touch and his years of experience to cause trouble for an inexperienced side. Despite the creative presence of my two young starlets, we still couldn't penetrate the stalwart Rochdale defense, though Cousins came close twice from long range. A desperation switch to a 2-3-5 in injury time piled on yet more pressure, but the result was the same: our second straight defeat. It was poor reward for the 2,764 faithful who had braved the rain to support us. York 0, Rochdale 1 ----; Holt 13 MoM: Hughes (Rochdale MC) Three goalless outings in a row; lack of targeted finishing was again our problem. There had been only one shot on target by either side all afternoon, and that was the game winner by Holt. Despite our tons of pressure, our shooting had gone awry every time, and I vocally expressed my displeasure with that to the lads.
  25. Friday, 29th December, 2006. Alan Blayney's gashed leg was successfully stitched closed, and though the doctors recommended a week's rest, he wouldn't miss more than two matches over it. When we learned more about the Cambridge game, it turned out that Yeovil's Polish striker Bartosz Tarachulski had scored two goals in the final twelve minutes to lift Yeovil above Cambridge 2-1. At Bootham Crescent, the York Reserves had matches in back-to-back days on the 26th and 27th. Its doubly frustrating to see fixture congestion in a Reserve league that is primarily about keeping match fitness, not exhausting the players. With our injury situation, I would up fielding an all-amateur side, and they conceded a pair of 0-2 defeats to Blackpool Reserves and Yeovil Reserves. Friday afternoon, amateur midfielder Aaron Dennis played the game of his life for York Under-18s, scoring two goals in the first 15 minutes, and completing his hat trick in the second half after Boston United U-18s had clawed one back. James Smart added a late goal to make the final score 4-1. In other news, Burnley withdrew their transfer bids for Joe Keenan and Jon Paul McGovern, being unwilling to match the minimum-release fees for those two. I wasn't willing to let such key members of my successful squad go for less - it would be hard to find replacements of a similar quality without investing real money both in transfer fee, which I could afford, and wage budget, which I could not.
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