UNTIL THIS season, North Ferriby United and York City had the proud boast of being Wembley winners in common but little else.
The Minstermen had spent 79 years in the Football League, humbled the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in the Cups, and were the first club to break the 100-points barrier in a season.
Ferriby, meanwhile, didn’t reach Conference North until 2013 and are still waiting to play in the FA Cup first round.
Now, though, these two Yorkshire clubs are locked together for the next five months in an almighty scrap for survival near the foot of the National League that, on this evidence, could go all the way to the end of April.
York deservedly claimed a vital three points in the first of two festive meetings thanks to a 13th-minute strike from Aarran Racine.
But, as elated as the Minstermen were to claim a first win on the road in 36 attempts, there was still an element of desperation in how Gary Mills’s side had to see out a game they had controlled in the first half.
Had North Ferriby, with just 13 goals in 26 games comfortably the lowest scorers in the fifth tier, possessed anything approaching a killer instinct in front of goal during that frantic finale then the likelihood is York would still be waiting for their first league win since September.
Still, a win is a win after such a horrendous recent run – as was underlined by how Gary Mills, a European Cup winner as a player, celebrated on the pitch in front of the travelling fans in the 1,950 crowd at the final whistle.
“I don’t care what people say about the celebrating,” said Mills.
“It was just a good feeling to win a match. The pitch is horrendous and we had to win a different way. We should have had the game finished at half-time.”
Racine opened the scoring with a close range finish and, as Mills suggests, the game really should have been over by the interval.
Rhys Murphy had a header cleared off the line, Simon Lappin struck a post and Ross Armstrong came within a whisker of putting through his own goal during a first half that was almost exclusively spent in the Ferriby half.
The Villagers, with the wind at their backs, took the game to York after the restart and Reece Thompson should have equalised 12 minutes from time, totally missing Kyle Wooton’s cross with the goal at his mercy.
“There was not a lot of quality out there in these conditions,” said Ferriby manager Steve Housham, whose side travel to Bootham Crescent on New Year’s Day.
“It didn’t look pretty on the eye but we will have to bounce back from this.”
North Ferriby United: Watson; Middleton, Gray, Skelton; Topliss (Fallowfield 46), Sutton, Armstrong (Kendall 85), Emerton (Stamp 68), Hare; Thompson, Wooton. Unused substitutes: Bateson, Oliver.
York City: Letheren; Rooney, Klukowski (Whittle 55), Racine; Heslop, Moke, Lappin, Holmes, Newton; Parkin, Racine. Unused substitutes: Fry, Nti, Woodland, Rzonca.
Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).