York played host to Barnsley in a reverse of the previous weekend’s cup fixture in what promised to be another close fought, competitive encounter. There was drama, however, before a ball was even kicked : the appointed match referee was unable to attend so the call went out for a replacement. Up stepped York Schoolboys’ Secretary and ‘Housewife’s Choice’, Matt Brown, to take on the role and put in what he, himself, described as a performance that was “faultless”, “a masterclass” and “worth the admission fee, alone”.
Once the action got underway, things began in a similar vein to the previous week’s game – both teams working hard but neither side looking fully in control. York appeared to settle first, Ben Garbutt-Smith running through to force an excellent save from the Barnsley keeper. On the fifteen minute mark, Lleyton Brown gave York the lead. Showing fantastic close control, he created the space and opportunity to curl the ball out of the reach of the keeper and into the top corner of the net. 1-0.
Could York maintain the pressure and build on their lead? Sadly, not. Despite the warnings of the previous week, York sat off the Barnsley midfielders, allowing them space to clip a ball over the back four to create a one on one chance that gave York goalie, Jacob Bryant, no chance. 1-1 and all looked set for another end to end battle. In a half short on quality but big on effort, York fought to regain the lead and went 2-1 up through Jack Cottam – Brown controlled a cross and teed up the big centre half who finished well from close range. Unfortunately, York were unable to see things out and hold onto the lead. A Barnsley free kick was whipped in from the right and an unmarked striker volleyed home for 2-2. Bryant, once again, was left with little chance of preventing the goal.
The teams went into the half time break level. Barnsley probably believed that they were in the ascendancy but York knew that they had more to offer and could, and would, move up a gear or two in the second half.
York tweaked their formation before taking to the field for the second period, pushing an extra man into midfield to gain more control in their opponents half. York looked sharper, more purposeful and found the opportunity to get their attacking midfielders Ben Whitehead and Joe Meek onto the ball in dangerous areas. Whitehead started the move for York’s third goal. Gaining possession on the halfway line, he played a delicious pass into the path of Garbutt-Smith, who made his way into the opponents penalty area. His shot was blocked but Brown picked up the pieces and laid the ball off for Whitehead, who had followed the play and made a clever run into the box, to control and score a well deserved goal. This lifted York’s confidence and they began to put Barnsley under a good deal of pressure. On the flanks, Cameron Wakerley’s skill and strength showed that he is well on the way to recovery following a 2-month injury absence which has interrupted his season, Adi Bajaziti offered pace and trickery cutting from the right, working back to recover possession for his team when required.
On fifty minutes, they extended their lead. Garbutt-Smith was found by a neat, lofted pass from Harry Fort and he cut in from the left to score with a cool finish. At the other end, York’s back three stood firm and resolute – Billy Dickinson, Jack Cottam and Jack Redman helped set up a platform for the rest of the team to go and win the game with their organisation, positional play and willingness to put themselves on the line. All three played their part in a solid second half performance. Keeper Bryant was confident and brave in pulling off a close-range block at the near post to prevent Barnsley from getting back into the game. Positioned in front of the defence, Seb Holowkiewicz kept things tidy and organised those around him, ensuring that York picked up a greater share of the loose, second balls. Alongside him, Leo littlewood worked tirelessly as he covered the ground, made tackles, began moves with his tidy passing and put in a strong, determined, selfless performance that helped set the tone for his team. York’s superiority saw them grab another as Brown scored his second – and his team’s fifth – with a trademark, slick finish. Although Barnsley kept going, York were determined to turn the screw and put the game out of reach. They created a number of good openings which were blocked, saved or went narrowly wide but then grabbed their sixth, and best, in the final few minutes as Meek controlled a loose ball, beat three players with ease and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Final Score : York 6-2 Barnsley.
Scorers : Lleyton Brown (2), Jack Cottam, Ben Whitehead, Ben Garbutt-Smith, Joseph Meek.
A really strong, confident second half performance helped give York a deserved 6-2 victory. Although not always at their best and most fluent, they found a way to win.
MOM : Leo Littlewood – his selfless, hardworking, mature performance went a long way towards ensuring that his team won the key midfield battles, putting themselves into a position where they could go on to win the game.