ON A weekend when Wembley’s 10th anniversary was marked by the Arch being lit up in the colours of the 166 clubs to have played at the rebuilt cathedral of English football, York City’s presence on behalf of the county was entirely fitting.
The Minstermen were making their fifth trip to the £787m national stadium, the most by any White Rose club, and it proved to be a very happy return thanks to someone who is also no stranger to this corner of the capital.
Jon Parkin, in his third appearance at Wembley in as many years, netted York’s opening goal and then produced a quite breath-taking piece of skill to all but score the winner, team-mate Aidan Connolly cheekily nipping in to get the final touch as the ball reached the line.
Macclesfield Town defender David Fitzpatrick was never going to get back and clear so, while Connolly’s name will be in the record books as the scorer of the winner in the 2017 final, all 7,000 of York’s fans who made the trip south know who was the true hero of their club’s second Trophy win.
No wonder those travelling supporters reserved their biggest cheer of the post-match celebrations for Parkin, the club’s top scorer this term with 16 goals despite only arriving from Newport County in December.
The 35-year-old may not have been able to keep City up. But, by recently agreeing a 12-month extension, Parkin has given fans hope that an instant return can be achieved.
York’s challenge now is to emulate FC Halifax Town in winning promotion a year on from lifting the Trophy at Wembley as a newly-relegated club.
“We have to go and do what Halifax did, though we have to go one better and try to win the league,” said Mills. “Rather than just get in the play-offs.”
Only time will tell if that target can be achieved but City will, at least, head into the summer on a high.
By seeing off Football League-bound Lincoln City in the semi-finals, the Minstermen edged ahead of Hull City on the roster of Yorkshire’s most frequent visitors to Wembley since the stadium was officially reopened on May 19, 2007, with the FA Cup final.
We have to go and do what Halifax did, though we have to go one better and try to win the league – rather than just get in the play-offs.York manager, Gary Mills
That was an awful game, decided in extra time by Didier Drogba with a predatory finish totally out of keeping with the tedious fare that had gone before between Chelsea and Manchester United.
Yesterday’s clash could not have been more contrasting, a laudable commitment to attack on behalf of both managers ensuring there was plenty of entertainment for those in the 38,224 crowd to savour.
The tone was set in the opening quarter, as three goals were scored and two big penalty appeals turned down by referee Paul Tierney.
Parkin was the man who struck first. A quick throw in the eighth minute to Danny Holmes was followed by a first time cross that allowed the veteran striker to nip in front of marker, George Pilkington.
Once there, City’s top scorer used all of his bulk to ensure the Macclesfield defender had no chance of denying him a 20th goal of the season with a deft header.
Macclesfield’s response was commendably swift, Rhys Browne drilling a low shot through Kyle Letheren’s legs to restore parity within five minutes.
Chris Holroyd going down after feeling Yan Kulkowski’s hand on his shoulder a few minutes later then brought howls for a Silkmen penalty but referee Tierney was unmoved, as he had been in the second minute when York’s Amari Morgan-Smith took a tumble under pressure from Andy Halls.
City’s advantage was restored on 21 minutes, a delightful pass by Holmes releasing Sean Newton who rolled an inviting cross for Vadaine Oliver to convert at the back post.
Macclesfield drew level for a second time in first-half stoppage time, Ollie Norburn unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot from 25 yards that was past Letheren before he had managed to lift a hand.
As with the first goal, the goalkeeper could have done better with the ball well within his reach.
Still, he made amends in the second half with several vital saves. The best came from Mitchell Hancox, though the quick dart from his line that saw Browne closed down before being able to get away a telling shot was also impressive.
Hamza Bencherif, a Trophy winner with Halifax a year ago, was York’s other defensive hero in a second half that saw the Silkmen create the lion’s share of the chances with a header off the line to deny Kingsley James.
The value of that stop was underlined four minutes from time when Parkin held the Macclesfield defence at bay before hitting a shot that took a deflection off Pilkington before Connolly applied the final touch.
It meant York, following the nadir of those back-to-back relegations, finally had reason to smile again. The challenge now is to harness this feelgood factor and help the club on the long road back.