York made the trip to Barnsley to take part in what was, due to a number recent postponements, their first league game of 2022
On a wonderful, sunny, February morning in South Yorkshire, Barnsley started the brighter of the two teams, getting to grips with the conditions and difficult surface much quicker than York. They showed their intent from the off, pressing York, putting them under pressure and showing a desire and energy that made it difficult for York to settle.
In a first half of few chances, York worked hard to create opportunities. Adam Nganga, on the right, and Rory Thornton, on the left, attacked their full backs but found space and clear openings hard to come by. Enzo Nunnari, up front as the lone striker, hunted down the ball but found that, due to a well organised and quick Barnsley defence, he was mostly feeding on scraps. Barnsley enjoyed a good deal of possession and their strikers were tricky, with good movement. York keeper Jack Yates was called upon more than once to sweep up behind a defence that was well marshalled by the vocal Jack Cottam and impressive Billy Hobson. York played their way into the game and began to feel their way into things. In what became a very even half, they managed to take the lead on the twenty minute mark when Ben Garbutt-Smith spun a free kick over the Barnsley defence for Cottam to volley home with his left foot. Soon after, a dipping corner from Seba Holowkiewicz bounced invitingly in the area but York were unable to react and take the opportunity to score a second. Unfortunately, they soon paid the price for not extending their lead when a Barnsley counter attack caught out York. Good control from the striker and a curling finish gave Yates no chance. As the half drew to a close, Harry Fort played a lovely ball over the top to create an opportunity for Nganga who bore down on goal. However, the home side’s keeper pulled off a good save to prevent York retaking the lead. The half continued to be a very even affair with both teams enjoying opportunities around the opposition penalty area but without creating any real openings or troubling either goalkeeper.
1-1 at half time and anyone’s game.
Second half and it was clear that Barnsley had upped their game and they were soon in the lead. York failed to deal with a ball out of defence and Barnsley capitalised, forcing the ball in from just outside the area. 2-1 to Barnsley. This deflated York and put them on the back foot. At this stage of the game, the home team enjoyed a good deal of possession, playing confidently and with an energy that York struggled to match and, as result, they put their opponents under a lot of pressure. Lesser characters might well have crumbled, but York realised that they had to stick at it and do whatever was required to stay in the game: Billy Dickinson stood tall and strong in the centre of the park, leading by example with his tackling, harrying and doggedness; he was backed up by his fellow midfielders Leo Littlewood, Ben Armitage and Fort as the unit worked themselves into the ground; the defence of Holowkiewicz, Hobson, Cottam, Garbutt-Smith and Thornton put their bodies, heads, limbs and everything else on the line, and the whole team dug in. It wasn’t pretty – but it didn’t need to be. It just needed to be effective. Eventually, York worked themselves back into what was a very competitive and full-blooded game. Their fantastic team-spirit and desire to not give in prevented Barnsley taking the game away from them and eventually led to York creating what turned out to a wonderful passage of play to bring them back onto level terms. A quick ball forward by Dickinson was flicked and spun on skilfully by Nunnari into the path of Nganga, who broke past the defence to pressure the keeper. The ball was punched out to Garbutt-Smith. His calm header found Cam Wakerley in the centre of the pitch, around thirty yards from goal. Wakerley picked up the ball and skilfully headed out to the right, showing close control and composure to trick his way past three players before playing in a low cross that evaded each of the Barnsley defenders. Nunnari, sensing his moment, ghosted in at the far post and showed a cool head to tuck away the chance with a right-footed finish and make the score two-all. With five minutes remaining, both sides felt that they had the opportunity to seal the win and take all three points. Barnsley forced a couple of late corners which were well dealt with by York and then, in the final minute, they were awarded a free kick when Yates, having bravely blocked a goal bound strike with his head (or, more accurately, his eye!) was adjudged to have handled the ball outside his penalty area. The resultant kick cleared the crossbar and, seconds later, the referee blew for full time.
York, to be fair to their opponents, will probably feel slightly fortunate to have come out of the game with a draw and a point – and having preserved their unbeaten run this season.
MOM: Jack Cottam – the central defender scored York’s first goal, was a fantastic presence at the back and encouraged, prompted and organised those around him when the pressure was on.
Scorers : Cottam, Nunnari