York hosted previously unbeaten West Yorkshire counterparts Leeds in what proved to be a very competitive, end to end game. York started well, passing the ball tidily in midfield and winning a number of early duels with their opponents. Ben Armitage and Billy Dickinson, employed in the centre of the park, offered vital protection to the York back four, setting the tone early on with a number of strong tackles and demonstrating York’s desire to make things difficult for a much-fancied Leeds team.
The opening exchanges saw both teams enjoy good passages of play but it was the home side who broke the deadlock half way through the first period when Armitage curled a dipping shot over the Leeds keeper from distance. 1-0. Shortly afterwards, Ben Garbutt-Smith, looking dangerous on the left side of midfield, broke through the Leeds defence but saw his strike partially blocked and hooked to safety. Leeds came back at York, placing the home team under a great deal of pressure. The defensive unit of Billy Hobson, Jack Redman, Jack Cottam and Seb Holowkiewicz showed they were up to the task – holding their line, picking up runners and staying tight to what proved to be a very mobile Leeds front line. Leeds forced a number of corners but York defended confidently and resolutely. It looked as though Leeds’ pressure would tell as they eventually broke through and looked certain to score. However, York keeper Jacob Bryant launched himself bravely at the attacker’s feet to win the challenge, grab the ball at the second attempt and avert the danger.
The half concluded with Leeds seeing a good deal of the ball but York determined to hold on to their slender lead. The half time whistle blew with the home team 1-0 up.
Second half and York showed they weren’t prepared to just sit back on their lead and soak up pressure. They pushed Leeds back and tried to impose themselves on the game. Lleyton Brown showed good control on a difficult pitch, creating problems for Leeds with several good runs; Leo Littlewood, Ben Whitehead and Joe Thompson combined well in midfield, closing down the opposition to regain possession and picking their passes to push their team forward. York deservedly extended their lead on the fifty minute mark. Holowkiewicz, showing his quality from dead ball situations, whipped in a free kick from the left. Leeds failed to deal with it and the onrushing Brown clipped the ball into the net to make it 2-0. Leeds came back at York, putting the home team under a great deal of pressure. York’s defence continued to stand strong and showed how well they can work as a unit – organised, determined, focused. When the ball found its way through to keeper Bryant, his kicking and distribution was accurate and purposeful.
With an hour of the game gone, Leeds did create a good opportunity to pull a goal back following a good run through the middle of the pitch, but failed to hit the target. With five minutes left, York wrapped up the victory and the three points. The ball was played up to Harry Fort, whose close control allowed him to turn and chip the ball over the full back and play in the dangerous Garbutt-Smith. His run into the area saw him beat three defenders before slotting home for 3-0.
York, despite missing several players through illness and injury, showed the strength in depth of their squad to put in a hard working, determined and mature performance to match and defeat a very good Leeds team. They end the year on a five match winning run, knowing that they are demonstrating a fantastic team ethic and togetherness. This should give them confidence going into a number of difficult fixtures in the New Year.