York City fans finally said goodbye to Bootham Crescent this week, although thanks to covid they were unable to do it in person.
Tonight, they play their first game at the LNER Community Stadium (hang on…), bringing to an end almost 90 years of history. Of course, the Imps have played at their old ground plenty of times, and not always with great success. My first ever away game came at York City, back in 1992/93, whilst it has also been the location of some huge wins for the Imps, not least the 4-1 victory back in 2016/17 where we took 1,000 fans and handed out a real thrashing.
It wasn’t always a happy hunting ground though – after Dave Carr and Gordon Hobson gave us a 2-0 win there in August 1979, it took another 25 years for the next Imps win. That wasn’t due to us not being in the same division either, we made 15 trips without a win, one of those being my first trip. I can’t claim to have travelled there on Tuesday, February 17th, 2004, but I wish I had, as we broke a 25-year hoodoo. That brings me nicely to today’s memory match, from the halcyon days of Keith Alexander’s trademark Imps side.
The Imps started that season badly, and the first encounter was our sixth of the season, the opening five bringing three league defeats. That afternoon, we romped to a 3-0 win and the Imps lost just three league matches between that game on August 30th and the rematch at Bootham Crescent in February.
Despite the good run of form, the Imps were till just outside the top seven in Division Three. Having played 30 matches, we had collected 38 points, 11 shy of third place and four behind Huddersfield in sixth. There was certainly a disparity between the top eight and the rest of the pack, with six points the gap between us and Northampton in ninth. York were eight points behind us in 12th, and it did feel as if we were a little marooned in a no man’s land between seventh and eighth. For the record, Torquay were one place above us and a single point ahead and it felt a lot like a two-horse race for the final play-off spot.
The City side on that sharp evening was Marriott, Morgan, Bailey (83), Weaver, Mayo, Futcher, Gain, Sedgemore, Green, Richardson (62) and Taylor-Fletcher (74). The subs who got a run out were Liburd (83), S Yeo (74) and Cropper (62), with Bloomer and Socctt Willis unused. The two notable players in the York side were former Imp Justin Walker, on loan from Cambridge and now part of Wayne Rooney’s backroom team at Derby County, and Jon Parkin, the beast who started and ended his career at Bootham Crescent.
The Imps began that evening in decent fettle, although the home side did enjoy the better of the possession. The first real chance of the game fell to Ben Sedgemore, who hit a left-footed volley from just outside the area which dropped wide. It was the only real action of a dull first half, right up until the final minute of the half. Mark Bailey floated a teasing cross deep into the box, only to see Marcus Richardson dragged down by the Mnstermen’s Darren Edmonson. Referee Paul Robinson pointed to the spot, and typically Paul Mayo made no mistake, bagging his eighth goal of the season.
That goal gave the Imps a new lease of life, and we came out quickly and effectively in the second period, determined to put 25 years of failure to bed. 13 minutes after the restart, Richardson played a neat ball to the unmarked Francis Green, who cleverly nutmegged a defender and smashed home the second. Three minutes later, City killed the game off by going for the jugular. Taylor-Fletcher slipped a pass to midfield maestro Peter Gain, who beat York keeper Ovendale with ease. That was effectively game over.
Richardson and Taylor-Fletcher were both withdrawn, doubtless with the game over Keith felt he wanted to protect his strikeforce, with Simon Yeo and Dene Cropper their replacements. Cropper and Yeo had been the strikeforce which started the sensational 2002/03 season, but neither had quite got going since. Cropper hadn’t scored for 18 months, and sadly wouldn’t score for the Imps again, but he did fire wide not long after coming on. Yeo had more luck – he had bagged six earlier in the season, but hadn’t scored in two-and-a-half months. It took him less than two-and-a-half minutes to get his seventh of the season, a tap in from no more than two-and-a-half yards.
Mayo slid a cross along the ground into the area, and oddly everyone left it – York’s keeper and a couple of their defenders too. Yeo didn’t need a second invite, sneaking in around the back to slot home and put the game beyond doubt. Even a late consolation from Lee Bullock couldn’t dampen the Imps spirit, with 4-1 the final score.
It gave the Imps their first double of the season, and the biggest ever away win at Bootham Crescent (at the time). It also meant a move into the play-off places, ahead of Torquay and to within three points of Huddersfield and Yeovil above us. The next game the Imps were scheduled to play was away at the McAlpine, and all I have to say is Pawel Abbott, and Imps fans will surely shudder.
By the end of the season, we managed to retain our position in seventh, only to fall to Huddersfield in the play-off semi-finals. Doncaster, Torquay and Hull were all promoted, whilst York finished the season rock bottom, picking up just four points from a possible 42.