Doncaster Rovers tie provides York City with perfect opening

York City manager Nigel Worthington.
York City manager Nigel Worthington.
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WITH four trips to Wembley since it re-opened in 2007, York City lead the way in a list of the county’s clubs to have appeared at what is now one of the world’s finest stadiums.

Only Sheffield United and Hull City, with three apiece, come close to matching the Minstermen, whose visits are split between the Conference play-off 
final and the FA Trophy.

Such a proud record suggests that York are expert at dealing with the vagaries of knockout football.

However, since returning to the Football League in 2012, this knack has slipped with nine ties across three competitions having brought just a solitary victory.

Admittedly, York have been handed some tough draws in that time – none more so than in the Capital One Cup first round a year ago when Burnley, destined to win promotion to the Premier League nine months later, triumphed 4-0 at Bootham Crescent.

Nevertheless, a change of fortune in the Cups – starting tonight at home to Doncaster Rovers in the first round’s only all-White Rose tie – would be most welcome at a club that, as The Yorkshire Post revealed last week, is budgeting to lose around £300,000 this season.

Director Sophie Hicks said: “We were delighted when the draw handed us Doncaster, especially as we are at home. We played them a couple of years ago in our first game since winning promotion (from the Conference) and were unfortunate to go out of the Cup on penalties.

“It is a Yorkshire derby and with Doncaster having a good result (on the opening day, when they won 3-0 at Yeovil Town), it should be an interesting tie.

“Hopefully, Doncaster will bring a few fans with them and help create a good atmosphere. I know a lot of our supporters are looking forward to the game.

“Many of them have not had the chance to see us in either the pre-season friendlies or the opening game at Tranmere. So, the Doncaster game will be their first chance and I know that Nigel (Worthington, manager) wants to start well at home.

“Nigel takes the cup competitions extremely seriously and I know he wants to get as far as we can. Doncaster will be a very good test for us. But we are at home and that could give us an advantage.”

York’s solitary win in nine cup ties since returning to the League came a little under two years ago against Rotherham United at the New York Stadium in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round.

Last season, first-round exits to Burnley, Rotherham (JPT) and Bristol Rovers (FA Cup) came at a time when league results were also disappointing. It was not until the turn of the year that Worthington’s men embarked on a stunning run that would take the club to the League Two play-offs.

Hicks added: “I realise it is a cliche to say that if you get knocked out of the cup, you can concentrate on the league. But I don’t necessarily agree with that.

“A win in whatever competition creates confidence and gives everyone belief. It also creates momentum, as happened with ourselves when we got to the FA Trophy final (in 2012).

“A cup run can do wonders for a club. It increases interest and creates a buzz around the city.

“We don’t budget for any income in the cups, they are totally an added bonus financially. We have had some great cup runs in recent years and it would be great to get back to that.”

Doncaster manager Paul Dickov says his job after Saturday’s surprisingly emphatic win at Yeovil is to manage his small squad and their gathering momentum.

Doom and gloom enveloped Rovers this summer with relegation in May compounded by the collapse of a takeover by former chairman John Ryan and One Direction star Louis Tomlinson.

An inability to sign and retain players also hindered preparations, but that negativity was blown away with a resounding 3-0 win in their League One opener.

As they head to York, Dickov is attempting to strike a balance between taking the competition seriously and not jeopardising the health of his threadbare squad.

Dickov, who has to decide whether to risk Reece Wabara, Nathan Tyson, Harry Forrester and Rob Jones tonight after they took knocks on Saturday, said: “Momentum is massive.

“We’ve spoken all pre-season about hitting the ground running and we couldn’t have wished for better on Saturday in terms of the clean sheet and the goals we scored.

“So I’ve got to be careful. The group’s only been together a short space of time, and we need to keep the confidence going.

“I’m having to manage the players’ workload because we have such a small squad.”

On tonight’s tie, Dickov added: “It’s a priority because it’s the next game. It’s no secret that a cup run can create a feel-good factor around the place, plus there’s the financial impact.

“York are a big, strong, hard-working team and we know it’s going to be a really tough game for us.”

Last six games: York City WWDLDD, Doncaster Rovers LLDLLW.

Last time: York City 1 Doncaster Rovers 0; November 15, 2003; Division Three.

Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire).