Cresswell pen 75
A GOOD old fashioned six-pointer in the March mud fell United’s way on another day of drama at Plainmoor.
York City came to town with both sides scrabbling for a crucial win in the fight against relegation but the Gulls started strong, and Elliot Benyon had the crowd rocking with a poacher’s finish on six minutes.
Ryan Jarvis doubled the Yellow lead with a sensational strike midway through the first period and United were coasting to victory until Tom Cruise conceded a penalty with 15 minutes remaining.
United’s left-back was sent off for a professional foul and Richard Cresswell stroked home the spot-kick, but the Gulls withstood the late barrage to secure a big win.
Manager Alan Knill opted for the same side that defeated Chesterfield 2-1 in midweek, which meant Angus MacDonald kept his spot at centre-back. Aaron Downes, therefore, returned from suspension to take his place on the bench.
Joining him among the replacements was Billy Bodin, who had made the journey back from playing 90 minutes for the Wales Under-21 side in a 1-0 win over Moldova less than 24 hours earlier. Daniel Leadbitter and Danny Stevens were the duo bumped out of the squad as a consequence.
York boss Nigel Worthington shuffled his pack after the 2-0 home loss to Port Vale last weekend. Loan striker from Sheffield United, Cresswell, came in for his debut alongside the recalled Matty Blair.
Patrick Mclaughlin and David McGurk were the other two Minstermen elevated to starting duty, with Jamal Fyfield, Scott Kerr, Jason Walker and Michael Rankine the quartet to miss out.
The mere fact either manager could present a team sheet was down to the fantastic efforts of United groundsman Chris Ralph, his able assistant Ashley Barr and their team of helpers, who worked tirelessly to defy days of rain and produce a playable pitch.
Referee Roger East deemed the game on after an early morning inspection and the Yellows showed their gratitude with the opening goal, and it was a typical Benyon effort.
York played their part with a poor clearance from a Lee Mansell corner and when Jordan Chapell scuttled the ball back into the area, United’s arch predator of recent years popped up through the sea of legs to prod past Michael Ingham.
In fairness to the visitors, they quickly recovered from the setback to swing over a delicious cross from the right and Ashley Chambers sneaked in behind Cruise, but the York winger then contrived to head wide with goalkeeper Michael Poke completely exposed.
The Minstermen continued to turn a mild screw and the Gulls were grateful for a couple of big headers from MacDonald and Joe Oastler to quell hopes of a swift riposte.
Both sides then engaged in a period of sloppy passing before Jarvis submitted his candidate for goal of the season with an absolute screamer on 23 minutes.
There appeared no threat when the former Norwich man began dancing across the park from his right-wing berth but a quick shift of the feet created space for a wonderful dipping shot from 22 yards, and York ‘keeper Michael Ingham barely moved as the ball flew into the top corner.
At any level of football, it was a fabulous goal and the sprightly runs of Chapell on the opposite flank were another source of concern for a York defence clearly lacking in confidence. The deathly silence from the visiting dugout was perhaps another sign of the task facing Worthington.
United were looking relatively comfortable but a long free-kick forward from Ingham was mis-judged by MacDonald, and fell to Blair, who instantly stabbed the ball goalwards. Poke was equal to the challenge to muster a decent save with his legs but it was a timely reminder that the game was far from over.
The wake-up call was soon heeded, as Chapell dug out a looping cross for Jarvis to rifle in a left-footed drive that was well blocked by McGurk and polite enquiries about a handball were hastily dismissed by the officials.
United sauntered into the half-time interval with all looking rosy in the garden but Worthington sought to shake things up by introducing Tom Platt for the ineffective McLaughlin in midfield.
However, it was the boys in muddy Yellow to force the first opening, as Jarvis challenged for a header and the loose ball fell to Benyon, but he was unable to sort his feet out for a shot before York could scramble clear.
The next effort was a curler from Rene Howe that just failed to come back far enough but the chance only arrived because of superb determined work from Joss Labadie to muscle through the quagmire. York then burst down the left with Josh Carson, who speared a low drive narrowly past the far post.
The game lulled into a flat period and there was always the nagging fear of one goal for the Minstermen changing the whole complexion. A set-piece looked York’s best avenue to success and United needed a fine block from Labadie to thwart a Danny Parslow strike after McGrath delivered from a free-kick.
United had hearts in mouths on 66 minutes, as a twisting run from Chambers ended with a cross deflecting off the back of Cruise and looping over Poke. Plainmoor stopped still for a moment as the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Labadie was again the catalyst for a Yellow response and when a sustained spell of pressure was partially cleared, Jarvis was in the right place for another long-distance thunderbolt that Ingham needed his full frame to turn wide.
The game then turned on its head when Carson got the wrong side of Cruise and was bundled over in the box. East had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and issuing a straight red card to Cruise. Cresswell completed the pain with a neatly taken penalty in the bottom corner.
Knill immediately filled the void at left-back by withdrawing Benyon for Kevin Nicholson but the momentum had completely swung in York’s favour, and United needed a tremendous save from Poke to tip over a dipping shot by McGrath.
It was time to invoke the spirit of Dagenham, where 10 brave men in Yellow battled for almost a full match to secure a valuable draw. On this occasion, there were 15 minutes to survive in the quest for three massive points.
Bodin replaced Chapell for the final shift in a bid to give the York defence a new problem. The Gulls were doing a decent job of slowing down the tempo but the levels of tension inside TQ1 were excruciating.
The nerves were hardly helped by five additional minutes appearing on the fourth official’s board. The Yellow Army were magnificent in their rousing support and the players stayed strong for a huge win.
Well done to the team and well done to Chris Ralph for getting the game on.
Gulls [4-4-2]: 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 16 Angus MacDonald, 21 Thomas Cruise; 8 Ryan Jarvis, 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 24 Joss Labadie, 25 Jordan Chapell [15 Billy Bodin 85]; 26 Elliot Benyon [3 Kevin Nicholson 5], 9 Rene Howe. Substitutes [not used]: 4 Aaron Downes, 6 Damon Lathrope, 13 Martin Rice [GK], 14 Lloyd Macklin, 20 Nathan Craig.
Booked: MacDonald 70, Poke 88
Sent-off: Cruise 73
York [4-4-2]: 24 Michael Ingham; 6 Danny Parslow, 4 Chris Smith [capt], 5 David McGurk, 22 Jack O’Connell; 26 Patrick McLaughlin [18 Tom Platt H-T], 29 John McGrath, 10 Ashley Chambers, 14 Josh Carson; 17 Matty Blair, 35 Richard Cresswell. Substitutes [not used]: 1 Arron Jameson [GK], 7 Jamie Reed, 9 Jason Walker, 13 David McDaid, 16 Jamal Fyfield.
Booked: Cresswell 70, McGurk 84
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 2,871 [263 away]