YORK CITY’S bold promotion quest may finally be over, but do not think for one moment that they went lightly.
At the venue which proved the catalyst for their remarkable 17-game unbeaten run, which broke several club records and saw them gatecrash the top seven, a sad symmetry was applied as their play-off participation ended.
Fleetwood may be the ones who will be ordering their Wembley suits for May 26, but while the following words may ring hollow this morning, York can be mightily proud of their remarkable efforts this calendar year.
For a club to go from relegation candidates to be pushing frenetically for a promotion final in comfortably under five months is one of the stories of the 2013-14 Football League season.
York, typically, gave their absolute all in their attempt to achieve something that at the turn of last year was a wholly incredulous prospect.
But despite unstinting commitment it was not to be and while York lacked a touch or two of quality in the final analysis, it was hard to be too critical and throw that charge squarely at them on a night when no one let their supporters or manager down.
A side with a much bigger budget than themselves in Fleetwood were the ones who will battle it out for promotion glory in the capital, but do not let it be forgotten that they were hanging on for the vast majority of last night’s encounter.
The York faithful may have ultimately been disappointed, but showed what they made of matters close to the end with a chorus expressing their pride at their side’s efforts. Beaten but not bowed.
Supporters dreamed of another delectable away-day to follow on from taking the choice scalps of the likes of Portsmouth, Oxford and Plymouth, but fate decreed otherwise.
Yet as owner Jason McGill rightly said after the game, the pride at the club’s achievements is immense, with the run constituting a big bonus in a campaign which was in danger of unravelling at Christmas
Ordered to start the game with an intent and purpose conspicuous by its absence in the first leg against Fleetwood and the final-day clash at Scunthorpe, Worthington’s side answered their manager emphatically.
The Minstermen harassed the hosts and displayed conviction and desire going forward, the only thing missing being a goal in an opening half when they were in the ascendancy.
The opportunity they would have craved ahead of the first whistle arrived on 15 minutes when a neat move ended with Michael Coulson firing straight at Chris Maxwell when excellently placed. A couple of earlier half-chances had seen captain Russ Penn hook a shot over and Adam Reed denied by a timely challenge from Mark Roberts.
At the other end, Fleetwood produced a couple of decent moments, with David Ball and Iain Hume firing efforts over the top, but they were plenty much in isolation with York winning virtually all of the individual battles.
As the half progressed, more than a touch of anxiety started to creep into the home sections of the sell-out crowd, with bookings to key players in captain Roberts and playmaker Antoni Sarcevic adding to the sense of disquiet.
But despite rattling the hosts, York could not quite kick down the door, despite providing another scare five minutes before the break.
It came via a looping header from Keith Lowe which arrowed towards goal, with only a desperate punch under pressure from Maxwell saving the day.
Home manager Graham Alexander, who showed clear signs of exasperation on the touchline in the first period, had a fair bit to ponder at the interval, while no doubt being somewhat relieved that their lead remained intact. Nervous in the first period and seemingly unsure whether to stick or twist with a 1-0 aggregate lead, it had the makings of a long night for the Lancastrian club.
But it was a case of as you were with a dangerous corner by Reed flashing across goal and then Sarcevic headed over in a rare raid at the home end.
For all York’s good work, there was no tangible reward heading into the business end of the semi-final. Reed just failed to get a clean connection on Will Hayhurst’s centre before Josh Morris dragged a shot wide ahead of Alexander playing his first card by sending on ex-York favourite Jon Parkin.
Five minutes later, Sarcevic went agonisingly close to a goal for the hosts after he conjured space before seeing his angled low shot parried by the underworked Nick Pope.
Alexander threw on a defensive midfielder in Alan Goodall for Steven Schumacher in an attempt to batten down the hatches.
Try as they might, York, despite bags of endeavour, lacked the poise and penetration to grab themselves a lifeline, with Nathan Pond excellent for the hosts.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell; McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts, Taylor; Blair, Schumacher (Goodall 74), Morris; Sarcevic (Cresswell 83), Ball, Hume (Parkin 64). Unused substitutes: Murdoch, Evans, Jordan, Lucas.
York City: Pope; Oyebanjo, Lowe, McCombe, Davies; Coulson (Jarvis 69), Penn, Reed (Montrose 84), Hayhurst (Allan 90); Bowman, Andrew. Unused substitutes: McGurk, Platt, Puri, Ingham.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland).