Monday, 11 February 2019

09/02/19 Review: York City vs Ashton United

York City 2-0 Ashton United (National League North)
Bootham Crescent

With 2019 well underway by now, the time was ticking on my opportunities to get up to Bootham Crescent and visit their legendary ground before it is knocked down and the Minstermen move over to Monks Cross to become another great club that make the switch to a new ground. The groundhopper in me is obviously very saddened by this, but the financial bore in me is pleased for the club that they will have the chance to move to a high-quality facility which won't cost £60k per year to maintain.

But just look at it!!!

My last entry of 2018 came as I took in another sixth tier match and although it was 220 miles away all the way down in Essex, I was more than happy to be back in National League action following a very enjoyable day out watching East Thurrock versus Dartford. To compare Rookery Hill to York's relic of a ground would be unfair as this is (was!) quite clearly a football league ground filled with history and meaning to the people of Bootham and Clifton, just above the River Ouse in the heart of York. When the Minstermen do eventually move to their new ground, it will be located about four miles north of this in Huntington. Driving in from Stoke I arrived in York early doors to have a catch up and a cuppa with my Aunt Julie, before sauntering into the surrounding streets of Bootham Crescent in search of the mythical free parking outside the ground. Thankfully I myself a tight Yorkshireman and so with persistence and the advantage of having a small car, I managed to park up just three minutes away from the ground and with half an hour still to go until kickoff I was pretty chuffed with my efforts so far.

Maybe I'd even have time for a pre-match pint...
Fortunes would soon turn though and having walked up to the outside of the ground I then had the horrible realisation that I'd forgotten to withdraw any cash. I quickly counted up all my pennies and realised that I only had £12.50 on me, which was £1.50 short of the entry fee. Knowing that time was all of a sudden very precious, I asked around for the nearest cash point and was given the humorous response of "yeah, end of road, turn right and it's outside shop. About 12 mile away!" Needless to say it was more like half a mile and thankfully I was able to complete the journey and get back to the ground with ten minutes left- which was just enough time for me to take in all of what makes Bootham Crescent so great. I stood in the home end, behind the goal, with a lively York City support. This terraced section of the ground was pretty hefty and will be impossible to replicate at the new ground, although I did have to have a laugh when I purchased my ticket as the lady in the kiosk said to me, "you're brave going in with that scarf on." In case you were wondering, the apparently controversial item of clothing I was wearing was a Harrogate Railway Athletic scarf- I know that York have slipped down the leagues lately, but are the North East Counties League side really that much of a threat? Equally impressive was the main stand, known as the York Pullman Family Stand, which reminded me very much of the main seating area at Altrincham's Moss Lane. The semi-dilapidated stand is the mainframe of the stadium and is also where the players' entrance, ticketing office and club shop all live, similarly to how Macc Town have it at Moss Rose. Obviously, with the ground being York's home since 1932 there is a massive divide between opinions on the move, but the more I looked around the ground the more I started to feel that the club is in need of an upgrade. One example is the toilets in our stand and them being a good two minute walk through a muddy field to a tatty old building which appeared to be attached to the rear of some lovely new flats! I expect soon enough that exact ground will become more lovely new flats and although it pains the footballing romantic in me, I couldn't help but think back to the state of the derelict main stand at Cliftonville in Belfast.

Onward and upwards? I suppose only time will tell
On this chilly but sunny day there was, of course, also a match to be enjoyed as part of my journey and as the two sides entered the field the atmosphere rose again as "City, City, City" chants began from our stand. York, who started the in 17th, were performing inconsistently to say the least and to summarise this I looked at their two recent matches against Darlington- a 5-1 away defeat on Boxing Day and a 4-0 victory at home on New Year's Day! They've also had losses recently against North West sides Chorley, Curzon Ashton and Stockport, in amongst good wins over Brackley and Alfreton. Safe to say that with the arrival of relegation candidates Ashton United, anything could happen here and in an attempt to make a reasonably conservative prediction, I went for a 2-1 home win on this occasion. The hosts had many former Macc Town lads in the squad today, with Moke and Burgess lining up in central midfield and Parkin filling up the sub's bench alongside the man who scored the first live professional goal I ever witnessed- Hamza Bencherif! Another fun fact whilst we're here- As a Silkmen fan I went to Wembley to watch our FA Trophy Final defeat at the hands of York a couple of seasons back and I actually had money on big Jon to get the opening goal, which of course he did. A small softening to the blow when going to Wembley to see your side lose a final!

I bet these lot had a lovely day out
The match got started and with the visiting side lining up in a purple strip the would almost instantly be on the back foot as York looked to push on early and force the issue. Burgess looked lively from the first-kick and despite the hosts racking up half a dozen early corners they could not get any real momentum together and Ashton continued to defend in a somewhat comfortable way. The fans in the stand next to me began to chant out a couple of verses of "what do we think of Scarborough? Shit. What do we think of shit? Scarborough" and I politely stood awaiting the eventual funny looks of people at my green and red scarf. It's Harrogate Railway Athletic for goodness sake! Get a grip!

Lovely afternoon for it
The main man up front for York and also the club captain is Jordan Burrow, formally of Morecambe, Stevenage and Lincoln amongst others, and it was he who was looking most likely to notch. His style of play wasn't dissimilar to that of Parkin's, which led me to believe that York have landed a bit of a coup with the tall lad who had actually managed to bag a few goals in the division above last season with Gateshead. Sorry, I shouldn't say that a player at this level is a coup, the man stood next to me in his Real Madrid hat and Leicester City jacket might have something to say about that.

Support your local team, don't be a plastic Leicester/Madrid fan
The first-half could have come to an end with a goal at either end as Jake Wright firstly headed a great chance straight at George McMahon in the Ashton goal, before a visiting corner was well saved at Adam Bartlett's left-hand post- a good reaction from the otherwise untested York City keeper. With the two big chances passed by, it was time for the Ref to call an end to the first 45 and that gave me a further chance to potter around the ground. Surely enough the second-half started in a similar fashion, with York largely on top and looking the most likely to score. Ashton's main chances to net one came from set-pieces and when Adriano Moke dived in to concede a free-kick to the visitors, some of the more pessimistic fans began to wonder if the game was slipping away. At the other end, York had a massive double chance as Wright was yet again denied by McMahon before Alex Kempster then blasted over the rebound. Big Jon came on for the last twenty minutes and you could see that the Minstermen were throwing everything into grabbing a late win. In fairness to York, they could have been at least a couple of goals to the good by this stage but as we all know when things aren't going your way that you could also find yourself on the wrong end of a frustrating 0-1 loss.

Time was running out for the lads
Thankfully for Steve Watson's men today was not one of those days and they did eventually rally round to a late win. With little more than five minutes left, the pressure paid off as captain Burrow prodded a shot towards goal and on to the post. The crowd's gasp and momentary silence then turned to joy as the ball bobbled over the line and finally opened the scoring at Bootham Crescent. York 1-0 Ashton. In and amongst the excitement of the first goal, Jamie Reed had entered the field for Ashton and he received one hell of a reception as the former City man came back to his former hunting ground. The striker, who was in the famous FA Trophy and Playoff double winning side of 2012 and has since been been playing in Australia and Wales, before making a return back to England for Ashton. Despite his efforts though, he couldn't be the impact sub that his side needed and with the came coming to a close it would be Burrow who got the last say- his clever finesse finish from out wide curled into the top left-hand corner in stoppage time and with that the roar of relief shouted out as three points were guaranteed. York 2-0 Ashton.

Spilt brew in celebrations. Heartbreaking
Feeling pleased to have seen not only a game at Bootham Crescent, but also a home win, I made my way around to the clubhouse at the end and to my disappointment it was shut. With just a brief pre-match peek inside, it would have been nice to end my outing with a cheeky pint before I headed off to Flamborough to visit family. Alas it wasn't to be, but either way it was a great footballing afternoon and I am pleased to be able to say that I visited York City's historic old ground before it is demolished. Cheers Minstermen and good luck with the move to the new community ground!

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