Blair nods York to Wembley in repeat display

York's Matty Blair scoring the winner
York's Matty Blair scoring the winner
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York City are one win from ending their eight-year exile from the Football League after yet more drama and another winning goal from their scene-stealing striker Matty Blair.

The 22-year-old had already scored the goal that sent the Minstermen to Saturday’s FA Trophy final at Wembley.

And yesterday at Field Mill, Blair struck again to edge Gary Mills’s side past Mansfield in extra time of a tense Blue Square Bet play-off semi-final.

Blair darted to the front post to head home Jason Walker’s left-wing cross in the 111th-minute to send the 1,500 York fans into raptures.

In a game of few chances, York’s defence then withstood Mansfield’s desperate attempts to force the lottery of penalties.

“To go to Wembley twice is a remarkable achievement,” said Blair, who scored an identical goal to defeat Luton – who await them in the play-off final – in the FA Trophy semi-final in March.

“It’s great to be the man that scores the goals but credit to the whole team.

“Without the ball from Jason Walker, without the ball from Jamal Fyfield, without the quality we have around the team, we wouldn’t be going to Wembley.

“It looked destined to go to penalties with three draws between the teams previously and nothing between us, but it was a great cross from Jason, and luckily I got in front of my man to nod it home.

“I’ve never been to Wembley before, never thought I’d ever go. Four years ago I was playing Sunday league football and for Racing Club Warwick youth team.

“So to score the goals to get York City to Wembley both times is breathtaking.

“Getting to the Football League is within our grasp.”

The suspension of Mansfield’s 30-goal marksman Matt Green – sent off in the first leg – might have been an advantage for York, but they were at least the match for a side who finished six points better off in the league.

Mills made one change to the side held by Mansfield’s 10 men in the first leg, with Fyfield dropping to the bench and Lanre Oyebanjo coming into midfield. James Meredith moved to left-back.

In an edgy first half when a bobbly pitch did little to ease anxieties, Mansfield settled quickest, but too often Ross Dyer – scorer of the opening goal in the first leg – was an isolated figure.

Adam Murray wasted the Stags’ best chance after Jon Challinor made a mess of a simple header back to his goalkeeper. Lindon Meikle reached the loose ball and cut it back for Murray, but Chris Doig blocked his effort.

York were caught between attempting to play on the deck and lumping the ball forward to their three fleet-footed strikers, Blair, Walker and Ashley Chambers.

Meredith and Oyebanjo were willing runners in support of Mills’s front three and at least had the yellow shirts retreating.

But the closest the Minstermen went was a free-kick from Patrick McLaughlin that curled just wide.

A more open second half provided a greater platform for York to threaten. Mansfield defender Martin Riley blocked two goalbound shots and then nearly scored an own goal before Blair cut in from the right to test Alan Marriott with a stinging low drive.

Briscoe twice forced Michael Ingham into saves at the other end and then Meredith had to be alert to head Luke O’Neill’s inswinging corner off the line.

York substitute Adriano Moke missed a golden opportunity when, unmarked, he lashed over the bar from Blair’s cutback.

Lindon Meikle brought a smart save from Ingham at the start of the first period of extra time. Then Moke shot straight at Marriott following good work down the right by Chambers as both sides looked for the decisive blow.

That it arrived in favour of York nine minutes later came courtesy of one of their slickest moves.

Fyfield fed Walker down the left and the top scorer teased his way to the byline and centred to the heart of the penalty area. There Blair darted in front of his defender to head home from six yards.

Richie Sutton was then sent off to make the task even harder for Mansfield.

Walker twice had the chance to seal it but on both occasions was guilty of being too fancy.

No matter. For all the long throws into the box by Exodus Geohaghon, York’s hard-working defence stood firm to send them back to Wembley.

Mansfield Town: Marriott; O’Neill, Sutton, Riley, Geohaghon; Meikle, Murray, Howell (Rhead 64), Roberts; Dyer, Briscoe (Stevenson 102). Unused substitutes: Redmond, Thompson, Andrew.

York City: Ingham; Challinor (Moke 59), Smith, Doig (Fyfield 86), Meredith; Oyebanjo, Parslow, McLaughlin (Potts 71); Chambers, Blair, Walker. Unused substitutes: Musselwhite, Reed.

Referee: A Davies (Southampton).