There has been much joy this morning at the FA Trophy draw as the National League’s bottom side York City have been pulled out of the hat to face the Mighty Imps. Social media has been buzzing with talk of a Wembley final, but this York City are not the push overs that we faced earlier in the season.
We’ll see tomorrow night that despite their lowly position, York are equipped for a brave fight over the coming two months. In fact, their form hasn’t been that bad at all, and if they could convert draws to wins they’d be safely mid-table by now.
Despite being bottom York have only lost two games since December 10th, which is the same amount as Lincoln. Those games were against North Ferriby and Gateshead, but in that time they have beaten Barrow in the league. They may have only won five league games all season, but prior to losing at home to the Heed on Saturday they were seven unbeaten, including draws against in-form Aldershot and Dover.
Since Gary Mills took over he has looked to toughen up the Minstermen, and he has had a degree of success. Usually remaining unbeaten in seven matches would be enough to pull you away from the drop zone, but North Ferriby, Woking, Guiseley and the other relegation candidates have also found a bit of form. When looking at the fixture list for the final two months, it isn’t always the top teams you should worry about facing, it is those fighting for their lives.
York’s FA Trophy run has been relatively safe though, they haven’t faced another National League team as yet. Worcester, Harlow, Nuneaton and Brackley have been despatched, but City will be their toughest test yet. One thing is for sure; both teams would gladly swap that Wembley final for three points tomorrow night.
Even going into tomorrow nights match, we shouldn’t underestimate our local (ish) rivals. They’ve hardened up across the pitch since rolling over at Bootham Crescent in November, players like Jon Parkin, Vadaine Oliver and Hamza Bencherif add strength, whilst Adriano Moke and Sean Newton have potential to pull a bit of class out of their pocket at any time. They may not be coherent and consistent, but they are not to be under estimated by any stretch of the imagination. I have no doubt their defending will be very different to the inept and bedraggled display they put on in November.
Something else to be aware of is their direct approach to the game. When Lincoln lose it is usually to a team that gets back to front very quickly, and with increased physical presence. Sutton were direct when they did us, we know all about Barrow, and even Dover play a direct game. If teams come and try to match us by playing football, they get beat. If they come to engage us in the fight then I think we can be susceptible. Tomorrow night, York will engage us in a fight. Remember just one month ago they out-Barrowed Barrow.
In the Trophy the fixture pile up could work in our favour. Ahead of our two-legged semi-final York travel to Macclesfield (Tue 7th) and then Sutton (Sat 11th). Following those two games they have the double header against us, and on Tuesday 21st they host Southport. Now Southport and Sutton are six point games for them, so maybe Mills will have to shuffle his pack for one of the games against us. If he does, I would wager his reshuffle will be nowhere near as strong as the Lincoln Lizards line-up. The fact we play Arsenal increases pressure on our opponents as they’ll have their Saturday 11th game still in place. Who would have thought we could positively spin a 60-game season?
Having a big win earlier in a campaign can often give a false impression of an opponent, and I can’t help but feel York might surprise us, certainly tomorrow night. They’ve become very adept at dragging out draws, something we don’t do. Our last draw in the league was Aldershot on November 12th, we’ve become very good at winning games. I know tomorrow York will come to stifle us, they’ll try to upset our rhythm and maybe even settle for a single point. It will be an interesting battle, but I cannot foresee another mauling.
In the Trophy, with no points up for grabs, they’ll perhaps be more adventurous and therefore we can expect two wholly different games of football. At this stage of the competition we cannot expect to face the same type of game as we do in our league fixtures, and that is why I am wary of what stands between us and our first ever Wembley final.