A tough opening fixture in the ESFA Cup for York as they welcomed Hambleton & Richmond to St John’s University. The pitch was in excellent condition and provided the perfect surface for both teams to play quick attacking football. It was the visitors who settled first, taking control in the wide areas and using it to great effect to stretch the York defence. The first chance was created by Hambleton as they rode a challenge from Ellis, but Louis was on hand to knock the shot round the post.
H&R nearly scored again a few minutes later as a quickly taken corner fell nicely for them, but the ball struck the bar and went over. York were working hard all over the pitch, but the second ball was eluding them, and the pressure was growing. Inevitability it was the visitors who took the lead but they needed a big slice of luck along the way. As Archie stretched to cut out a pass it bounced off the outside of his shin and landed perfectly for the Hambleton striker to tap home.
Despite the set back York continued to try play through the thirds with Harrison going close soon after. York won the next corner, but Cole’s header was at full stretch and went just wide. Mathew and Conner were linking well down the right resulting in a shot that was saved by the visitor’s keeper low down to his left. Mathew had another chance moments later from George’s cross but once again it just squeezed wide. It was Hambleton’s turn to spurn a couple of half chances before the break, but York held out and still had plenty to fight for in the second half.
York made the better start as they pinned the visitors back in their own half. Firstly, Mathew went close with a header before chipping another effort just over the bar. Ollie was then put through but was caught just as he was about to shoot by the Hambleton centre half. The visitors had now changed tactics and looked to spring quickly upfield every time a York attack broke down. It was very effective with Louis called into action to tip a shot onto the bar and York somehow scrambled it clear. Connor’s energy was lifting the home team and his header from Mathew’s cross once again sailed over.
It looked increasing like it wasn’t going to be York’s day as the visitors broke upfield. The ball was switched inside and the striker evaded three tackles and slotted the ball into the net.
With ten minutes to go York needed either something special or a bit of luck to get back into the game. It was a bit of both as Conner chased down a long ball that the defender had to slide back to the keeper. Under immense pressure his clearance was blocked by Connor and the ball dribbled into the bottom corner. The home team sniffed a chance and pressed forward. Will collected a long ball on the right and strode forward. His pass found Ellis who skinned the full back and he pulled a brilliant ball back towards the penalty spot to Connor and slammed home his volley to level the match.
With only seconds remaining, Frankie cut in from the left and unleashed a shot that seemed to be goal bound with the keeper rooted to the spot. It just didn’t dip enough and hit the underside of the bar and was cleared. The final whistle went, and the game was heading to a penalty shootout.
Joe and Harrison converted their penalties following successful spot kicks from Hambleton.
Louis then produced a fine save diving to his left and York now had the chance to edge in front. Ellis stepped up but pushed his spot kick past the post before the visitors took the lead again with the next penalty. Archie took the responsibility but was unable to beat the Hambleton keeper and they closed it out with an unstoppable final effort.
In the end a disappointing result for York but they showed resilience at two down to come back into the game and nearly snatch it at the end. Another action-packed game that once again kept the spectators entertained right to the very end.
MOM – Connor Gelder