YORK CITY fans do not need reminding that their club is at its lowest ebb in 95 years.
National League North provides plenty of those on an almost weekly basis, be it trips to unfamiliar places such as Chorley, Spennymoor and Leamington or the fact most of their part-time opponents combine playing duties with ordinary day jobs.
Fourth officials not being provided for games below the fifth tier is another of those gentle hints that life is no longer as it was, kitman Mat Hawkhead this term having to take on responsibility for signalling not only any changes from the bench, but also the length of stoppage-time.
And then there is FC United of Manchester. Admittedly, before yesterday, York had never met a club set up in 2005 by Old Trafford regulars who had grown tired of the growing commercialisation of the Premier League and the takeover by the Glazer family, in particular.
But, for any Minstermen devotees over the age of 30, the merest mention of the words ‘Manchester’ and ‘United’ in the same sentence is usually enough to elicit the warmest of smiles.
One of the most famous upsets of all time is the reason for that pleasant stroll down memory lane as York, then of the third tier, went to Old Trafford in September 1995 and triumphed 3-0 in a League Cup second-round first leg that beggered belief.
To lose the game in the manner we did was disappointing. A poor day for us. We have to be a lot better than that.York City manager, Gary Mills
Even Alex Ferguson turning to the likes of Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Andy Cole and Peter Schmeichel for the return was not enough to save the Red Devils as Alan Little’s men went through 4-3 on aggregate.
Yesterday, of course, was a million miles from that famous occasion – even allowing for the 570 visiting fans spending the afternoon mixing a few of their own chants with ones that had begun life at Old Trafford.
The first half response from the home support at the opposite end of Bootham Crescent was a stinging,‘You’re just a s*** Man United.’
By the final whistle, however, those same voices were berating their own players as the boos rang out following a second home defeat of the season for the Minstermen.
Late goals for Tom Greaves and Jason Gilchrist were enough to send a United side who had started the Bank Holiday weekend propping up the sixth tier back across the Pennines in jubilant mood.
York, reduced to ten men when Simon Heslop was dismissed just after the hour mark for a crude challenge on Nathan Lowe, may have twice hit the woodwork through Sean Newton and Michael Rankine during a second half that also saw the visitors’ defence twice clear off their own line.
But Gary Mills’s men could have few complaints with the result after a disjointed display that was long on errors and short on true quality.
Jon Parkin, plying his trade in the Championship with Hull City during FC United’s first season, is usually York’s talisman, but even he was guilty of a quite abysmal miss in the first half.
His inability to convert Alex Whittle’s inviting cross just about summed up York’s laboured efforts in the Bank Holiday sunshine.
FC United, whose only full-time employee is manager Karl Marginson, were not much better apart from where it mattered the most – in front of goal.
Greaves broke the deadlock 11 minutes from time by latching onto the rebound after Jon Worsnop had saved brilliantly from Gilchrist.
York continued to huff and puff in search of an equaliser, but Gilchrist killed off the game with a deflected shot in stoppage-time to leave York manager Mills fuming.
“I don’t think we would have lost with 11 players,” he said. “But to lose the game in the manner we did was disappointing. A poor day for us. We have to be a lot better than that.”
York’s attempt to bounce back from this hugely disappointing defeat will come in back-to-back away games inside four days that once again serve as reminders of how much of a journey into the unknown this season will continue to be with neither Chorley nor Spennymoor having previously met the Minstermen.
Then comes a first appearance in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup to underline further just how far the club have fallen courtesy of those two relegations in as many years.
What yesterday did prove, however, is that York benefit from at least one constant in these troubled times – the continued backing of their fans.
Yesterday’s attendance was 3,411, a few hundred short of the near 4,000 crowd that watched the 2-2 home draw with Darlington earlier this month.
Only Wrexham, Leyton Orient and Tranmere Rovers have posted bigger gates in non-League football this season to underline why there is hope, even as the club struggle to acclimatise to their new surrounds.