Nathan Greasley decided that a trip to York was the best way to spend the opening day of the season. Here is what he thought.
My sister-in-law’s sister got married this week. She lives in America. I met her now husband last year – seemed like a pretty cool bloke. Obviously – with the being relatives business – my brother and sister-in-law had to travel over to the States to join in with all the fun (a journey which included a terrifying sounding stint on a plane with propellers). The reason I’m telling you this is that someone needed to look after the cats while they were gone and that someone turned out to be me.
Looking after cats is fairly easy. All you really need is to do is feed them, change the litter tray and open doors a couple of times a day to let them in and out and they seem pretty content with life. It all gets a bit repetitive. Don’t get me wrong – the cats are pretty cool – but there comes a point where you wish they knew how to play backgammon or bridge or something like that. After five days, and the final realisation that they do nothing of the sort, what you really want to do is go out and do stuff. With Saturday being the first day of the football season taking in a match was really a no brainer. The problem was that I was in Yorkshire – a county blessed with ridiculous amounts of football. Being a quick bus trip from Leeds made their game against Wolves the obvious choice but there are a few problems with that – namely that I don’t particularly like Leeds United. I just knew if I ended up going to Elland Road I’d end up cheering for Wolves, upset a few of the natives and lose permanent use of my limbs. Paying thirty odd quid for that privilege made it even less appealing.
Barnsley vs. Middlesbrough was the next closest choice but – you’ll be stunned to hear – it really didn’t capture the imagination and have me running head over heels towards Oakwell. This left York vs. Wycombe as the only remaining choice and this is what I opted for. Not only was it a chance to cross a new ground off the list and visit a lovely little part of the world, it was a chance to see the Minstermen make a return to the Football League after eight years away in the Conference. I don’t really know an awful lot about York City. I do know that they were the opposition when Notts County got their biggest ever crowd but that’s about it. Other than that they seem to have appeared at Wembley (and so on TV) frequently in the past few years where – until last season – they invariably lost. Their tendency to bugger up on the big stage really appealed to me and even finally winning promotion against Luton Town a few months back didn’t dampen the soft spot I’ve developed for them as a result.
I know scarcely more about Wycombe – except that they must have been bitterly disappointed to suffer relegation back into League Two so quickly and must surely be hoping to return to League One sharpish. On the plus side their supporters got to spend a beautiful summer’s day in a beautiful city when fate could easily have sent them to Luton. All this set up a pretty intriguing encounter between two sides that were separated by an entire league a few short months ago.
The opening exchanges were exactly what a patronizing fan of a team used to more leafy surroundings like me would expect of League Two – it was spirited but not terribly good. Still, the York fans around me seemed content with what they were seeing. The play was largely confined to the middle of the park with neither side able to establish any sort of momentum. If a goal was coming it was always going to be a fortuitous one and it was Wycombe who benefited in the 28th minute when Matt Bloomfield’s shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off Chris Doig which left York’s ‘keeper stranded and sent literally tens of Wycombe fans ballistic. It was the first chance of the game, and York were more than a tad unfortunate, but rather than sulking too much about it, the Minstermen picked up the pace and responded quickly, forcing a couple of chances of their own. Firstly Michael Coulson was undone by some stern defensive work and soon after Ashley Chambers saw his long range effort go wide after a mazy little run through Wycombe’s defence. York continued to press without looking terribly threatening.
With the home team now looking the better side (if not particularly dangerous) Wycombe’s Sam Wood clearly felt it was time to stop with such silliness when he chested down the ball and sent it flying into the top left corner from 30-yards out. It was a stunning and totally unexpected turn of events that even had the home supporters applauding appreciatively. With half time approaching it really knocked the stuffing out of the home side.
York needed a strong start to the second half to have any hope of salvaging something so Gareth Ainsworth latching on to a pass from Stuart Lewis to send the visitors 3-0 up after 52 minutes probably wasn’t what they had in mind. “S***!” yelled one of the bloke’s behind me. “YOU JAMMY B******S!” yelled another. They weren’t the only people who were angry – York goalie Michael Ingham remonstrated fiercely with the linesman – apparently believing the ball had gone out of play (being up at the other end of the ground I have no idea) – but all he got for his efforts was a yellow card. The result now beyond doubt, York could easily have been forgiven for giving up the ghost, but to their credit they continued to press in hope of giving most of the 4,591 crowd something to smile about.
York’s consolation and – more importantly – their first Football League goal since 2004 came less than two minutes later. Ashley Chamber’s cross from the left hand side eventually found the leg of Jason Walker who bundled home from a few yards out. It wasn’t pretty but the home fans had something to cheer. They might have had more to cheer minutes later when Matty Blair hooked a shot over the cross bar from close range. The home team weren’t quite done there either and on 62 minutes the Wycombe ‘keeper was forced into his only serious save of the game when he tipped over Daniel Parslow’s effort from the edge of the penalty area.
After that the game petered out. York continued to have the majority of the play but Wycombe’s defence – which rarely put a foot wrong all afternoon – were happy to soak up the pressure. In particular, Wycombe’s Gary Doherty had a solid game at centre half and dealt comfortably with anything the home side threw his way. It was the kind of steady, completely unspectacular and entirely unnoteworthy performance that I fork out my money to go and appreciate. It is pretty difficult to make judgements this early on in the season (especially when you’ve never seen this team before) but I think York will do alright and get a few goals against teams which less well-organised defences. It might not have been a dream start to life back in the Football League but their fans seemed pretty philosophical about it – “we’re back where we belong,” one of them said to me, “eighteenth in Division Four!”