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Letters from Wiltshire #34
Written by wessex_exile on Wednesday, 24th Feb 2021 23:00

I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…

[b]York City v Colchester United
Tuesday 27th November 2001
FA Cup (1st Round replay)
Attendance 2,888[/b]

Letters from Wiltshire #34 goes right back to 2001, and our first round replay against York City in the FA Cup. My apologies in advance, with this evening’s 7pm kick-off approaching fast, and such a crucial game for the U’s as well, this blog is going to be perhaps shorter than usual.

In the context of where we are, and the potential fate that befalls us if we don’t start pulling some results together, having the random match selector choose York City as the opponent is a sobering reminder. In the 4th Division at the time of this replay, York City did of course slip out of the Football League in 2004. It took until 2012 for them to finally get back into the Football League, only to be relegated again four years later, and a year after that relegated to National League North for the first time in their history (though they did win the FA Trophy in the process).

[b]How come?[/b]
How come I was there, not how come York City are now in Tier 6. Well, first and foremost, I was there because the U’s failed to beat the Minstermen in the original FA Cup 1st Round match at Layer Road ten days earlier, drawing 0-0 in front of 3,350. We were a league above York at the time, so although we’ve experienced far worse in our time (let’s not forget the 1st round 5-1 exit at Yeovil the previous season for instance), another cup upset in the replay was therefore on the cards.

The other reason I was there was work-related – we’d been working on a major road scheme in the Midlands at the time, so when the need for a post-fieldwork on-site progress meeting was called for, it was an easy matter to look in my diary and casually suggest Tuesday 27th fitted well. From there, it was an even easier detour on a post-meeting cold and occasionally wet November evening to watch and see if the U’s could get through to the 2nd Round (for a home tie against Reading, riding high in our league).

I drove over after work, and parked up on one of the local neighbourhood streets around Bootham Crescent, where York City still plied their trade. No doubt as a result of financial difficulties, York City had ceased owning the ground a couple of years earlier, when it was transferred to holding company Bootham Crescent Holdings. It was announced at the time the ground would close and York move to a new stadium in June 2002, but at the time of my visit, there was still no sign of this fabled new ground. This was my first (and last) visit to Bootham Crescent; it was a nice little ground, even if (as usual) us away fans were housed on the shallow open terrace – much like tonight’s opponents Exeter’s old St James Park away terrace before they swapped it for the bouncy-bouncy stand.

[b]Where we were[/b]
The U’s were doing okay in the league, had spent the first couple of months in the promotion and play-off places, and although we’d slipped a bit, were still healthily placed for a renewed promotion challenge. Just a week earlier I’d been one of the 53 to witness a valiant point rescued at Ninian Park, following an 87th minute equaliser from Joey Dunne (which would turn out to be his last goal for the club). York were having a harder season in the basement, only six points and five places off the bottom and the trapdoor that awaited.

Steve Whitton’s U’s lined up as follows:

29..Andy Woodman
3….Joe Keith (Dean Morgan 45’)
4….Gavin Johnson
5….Ross Johnson
12..Scott Fitzgerald
20..Micky Stockwell (Lloyd Opara 96’)
17..Bobby Bowry
15..Thomas Pinault
7….Karl Duguid
22..Kevin Rapley (Alan White 72’)
9….Scott McGleish

Steve Whitton was in charge at Layer Road, and had been since the departure of Mick Wadsworth two years earlier. York were managed at the time by Terry Dolan, who I knew very well from his time managing Bradford City whilst I lived in West Yorkshire during the 80s. None of the York City players ring any particular bells with me – Alan Fettis in goal is a name I think I ought to know, and maybe Lee Nogan and Michael Proctor up front? If I had more time I’d do a bit more research – maybe another day?

[b]The match[/b]
There was a small but reasonably vociferous gang of U’s fans on the open terrace that night, probably no more than maybe 100-150 at the most, but considerably more than had been at Ninian Park a week earlier. We were rewarded with a fairly strong line-up as well – for the most part full strength, just with the one significant change of Andy Woodman in goal in place of regular Simon Brown – though to be fair, Woodman was also ‘keeper for the original fixture at Layer Road.

The U’s started brightly, and it only seemed like a matter of time that we’d take the lead, so imagine our surprise when Chris Brass did exactly that for York City in just the 8th minute. It was against the run of play, but following a needless foul by Bowry on the edge of the box, York City played head tennis in our box from the free-kick, with Brass heading home powerfully his chance.

From there through to half-time, and playing towards the far end in the first half, it was difficult to see quite how close we were getting, but most of the action was definitely in and around the York City box for the first half, but with nothing to show for it at half-time. The York Press described it as ‘laying siege’ and so it was – an endless succession of corners, blocked efforts, sublime stops from Fettis, York City throwing everything on the line and holding out.

Into the second half, and more, so much more of the same. Virtual one-way traffic from the U’s, bearing down on the goal right in front of us, with us merry band of frozen supporters just roaring and roaring them on. Dean Morgan, coming on for Joe Keith at half-time, somehow managed to get his feet in a twist when it looked easier to score a virtual open goal – Fettis superbly palmed out a Micky Stockwell thunderous volley, with Brass sliding in to deny McGleish a certain equaliser from the rebound.

Finally, eventually, and with less than ten minutes to go, we got the equaliser we richly deserved. Alan White swung in an inch-perfect free-kick, and up rose spring-heeled McGleish to head in the equaliser in front of a demented away terrace. Everyone then checking watches now – did we have enough time for a second, York City supporters wondering if there was enough time (and momentum) to regain the lead, and probably everyone wondering on a very cold evening if there was going to be extra-time and penalties (brrrr).

To their credit, under the cosh for most of the game, it was York City who responded to the challenge first, and within three minutes they had unbelievably restored their lead. Proctor hammered an effort narrowly wide as a taster, before Cooper passed wide to Darren Edmondson, who just set off on a bee-line straight to Andy Woodman, with defenders closing to intercept, Edmondson unselfishly squared right into the path of Graham Potter, who made no mistake from there. Talk about having the guts ripped out of you, but even then the U’s didn’t give up, and back they came, this time without a doubt against a ten-man York City defence.

With seconds of normal time to go, a frantic goalmouth scramble say the ball rebound out to Karl Duguid, who calmly slammed home the equaliser, before virtually joining us on the away terrace in celebration. And still we weren’t done – in the 6th minute of extra-time, a crisp shot from Morgan was parried by Fettis, and there was Opara (who’d only be on a second or two) to slot home the rebound. It was one of those awful moments when some of the supporters simply couldn’t stop celebrating long enough to notice the linesman’s offside flag.

And that was that, no further goals in extra-time, and so to penalties…

The penalties were taken at the far end in front of the home support, and it was a long time ago, so please don’t ask me to remember the sequence of them. In short, we came to the last kick of the match, and it was Karl Duguid against Alan Fettis, with Doogie needing to score to keep us in the tie. It was a good spot-kick from my vantage point, to the ‘keeper’s side, low and hard, but Fettis chose the right direction, dived well, and pulled off an exceptional save to knock the U’s out of the cup.

[b]York City 2 (Chris Brass 8’; Graham Porter 84’) Colchester United 2 (Scott McGleish 81’; Karl Duguid 90’)
3-2 on penalties aet[/b]

I will finish as I witnessed the match finishing – as everyone around the ground was ecstatically celebrating, supporters on the pitch, players hugging each other, with a dignity that did him so much credit, Karl Duguid calmly walked up to Alan Fettis and shook him warmly by the hand, in celebration of a job very well done on the night.

Though I haven’t got a copy these days, I remember an excellent report written in one of the broadsheets the following morning – I think it was the Telegraph, which gave a very balanced account of the match, and including focusing on Doogie’s dignity and professionalism in defeat. We might have gone out of the FA Cup, but it made me proud to read the report.

York would go on to defeat Reading in the 2nd round, and indeed Grimsby Town (after another replay) in the 3rd round, and would eventual fall against Fulham in the 4th round, but I have no doubt the cup revenue helped them enormously.

Up the U’s

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