York City sealed another visit to Wembley with an ecstatic extra-time winner against Mansfield Town in the concluding leg of the semi-final Play-off contest at Field Mill.
After Wednesday night’s 1-1 first leg draw at Bootham Crescent, Matty Blair’s header nine minutes from the depth of extra time was the only goal of the tie, giving York a 2-1 aggregate victory against the Nottinghamshire side. Tempers flared towards the end as Mansfield’s Ritchie Sutton was sent off before the final whistle for a late challenge on Matty Blair as he failed to control his frustration.
City started off brightly, keeping a healthy chunk of the possession early on as they tried to build momentum and control the flow of the game. Patrick McLaughlin’s 14th minute strike from just inside the box handed York with their first attempt at goal, but went harmlessly over the target. The majority of the first half played out in the middle of the park, as York’s Lanre Oyebanjo, James Meredith and Patrick McLaughlin duelled with Mansfield’s Adam Murray and Gary Roberts, producing a tasty affair in midfield.
York started to show signs of misplacement, and Mansfield gradually made their mark on the game as the first half progressed. Jon Challinor’s horrendous clearance gifted Mansfield’s Lindon Meikle the ball, allowing him to dart forward deep into York’s territory, but his attempted cross to pick out Ross Dyer was intercepted by the dominant lunge of Danny Parslow. Following on from this, York suffered a discomforting spell, under the cosh and made way for a bombardment of Mansfield pressure, however York did well to fend off their attacks with several blocked challenges from Patrick McLaughlin, Lanre Oyebanjo and Chris Doig as the first half drew to a close.
The opening minutes of the second half witnessed a handful of promising City attacks, allied with the pace and attacking capabilities of the three-man strike force of Ashley Chambers, Jason Walker and Matty Blair. Walker’s blast against Gary Roberts from 12 yards was the pick of the chances. York picked up the loose ball and Lanre Oyebanjo tried his luck from 25 yards, but was blocked off by Martin Riley. Jon Challinor then whipped in a dangerous ball from the deflection, with Riley again intercepting the pass, however nearly gifted the visitors with a goal in the process as his deflection was snatched in the air by the outstretched Alan Marriott. Matty Blair also added to the raid on numerous occasions, including a blistering run down the right flank, passed Roberts and shooting low at the keepers near post, with Marriott having to get his full body behind the ball.
The game started to become wide open as both sides urgent to get the potential winning goal, allowing the game to stretch both teams, with fascinating end-to-end action. Chris Doig positioning got the better of Ross Dyer to make a last ditch tackle as the striker broke free adding to the tension, as well as Louis Briscoe’s drilled shot, bobbling just in front of Ingham, forcing him to parry away and Meikle finding the side netting, going just inches wide. At the other end, Matty Blair long distance effort, tried to catch the keeper off guard, tricked towards the bottom corner, allowing the keeper time to snatch up the loose ball.
As the 90 minutes approached, Adriano Moke deemed almost certain to put The Minstermen through in normal time. Another one of Blair’s continuous charging bursts on the wing produced a low drive into the box, dummied by Walker at the near post, which found its way to Moke unmarked with just the keeper to beat and finish the job off, but he skied his effort over the post as the nerves clearly on show. The Stags’ Lindon Meikle and Adam Murray also tried their luck from long range, as City retreated making it difficult for Mansfield to get through late on, forcing extra time.
After both teams regrouped for a much needed rest, working off consequent cramp, the final half an hour to find a winner commenced. The nervy moments of the first 15 minutes produced several challenging crosses, dealt with by players from both teams. City’s Chris Smith and Mansfield’s Exodus Geohaghon were key marksmen for either side, as well as both goalkeepers dominating their areas with positive handling. Potts’ twisting and turning on the edge of box, left a gap in defence but the resulting shot went wide of the keeper’s right post and James Meredith ricochet the ball past his marker, but the midfielder seemed reluctant to shoot on goal and pulled back, which phased out to nothing.
As York let chances go begging, Mansfield conjured up a couple of their own to try and break the deadlock. Meikle, again proving to be a handful with his pace and trickery, drilled a right footed shot directly at Ingham, forcing the Irishman to palm over his bar and Martin Riley’s headed effort from close range, cleared the bar from the consequent corner by Luke O’Neill to York’s relief.
The second half of extra time produced much the same. A combination of scrappy play, sloppy passing in the final third and continuous fouls broke the game up, as concentration started to deteriorate and tiredness become visible. Mansfield at times looked like the slightly better team, with Geohaghon’s dangerous torpedo throws looking to punish York from set plays.
Just as the match looked like it was going to go down to the dreaded penalty shoot-out, up popped energetic Matty Blair, heading in a Jason Walker assist from close range to score on the 111 minute of play. The goal erupted the crowd and sent the 1,529 strong crowd into ecstasy.
As The Minstermen lead by a single goal, the occasion proved to get the better of the home side and Mansfield started to lack discipline. A couple of minutes after the goal, Ritchie Sutton was sent off for a second bookable offence, after an unfair lunge on goal scorer Blair, forcing The Stags to play out the remainder of the match with 10 men.
As the resilient Stags went in pursuit for an equaliser, they created a couple of testing moments for experienced goalkeeper Michael Ingham, but also allowed York to counter attack, leaving themselves open at the back. Jason Walker had two chances to put the game to bed right at the depth of extra time. The first saw him confidently chip the keeper but denied by defender O’Neill, as he got back in the nick of time to make the clearance. The second came courtesy of Adriano Moke’s break on the left flank, passing across the face of goal for Walker to finish off first time, but the striker hesitated and the chance ended up going to waste.
York’s resolute attitude helped them to hold on during the four nerve-racking minutes of injury time and book their second appearance at Wembley in eight days, following their FA Trophy final against Newport County. The Minstermen will now go on to face Luton Town in the final on May 20, as they strive to regain their football league status, after a long eight year absence.