Newport County 0 York City 2: FA Trophy triumph deserves its own pedestal

There are bigger issues for York City, with a stadium decision pending and a play-off final looming, but this accomplishment should not be understated.

Saturday’s FA Trophy triumph was the club’s first national cup success in their 90-year history, and warrants more than just being a footnote in a season that will end either in delight or despair back under the arch on Sunday.

For the 8,000 or so York fans inside Wembley on Saturday there were many moments to be cherished in the years to come.

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For the many more who could not afford tickets there was any number of reasons to dig deep into their pockets and find a few shillings to fund next week’s return trip.

For those who will have listened with passing interest to the radio coverage and checked the score at full-time, even those for whom the red of York is not the primary colour, there was reason to rejoice at this overdue success for a club long-since removed from the national spotlight.

Be it Matty Blair’s latest big-game contribution, a 65th-minute lob over Glyn Thompson that tilted the balance in York’s favour and propelled them towards victory.

Be it Lanre Oyebanjo’s clinching goal eight minutes later, a tap-in after a slick move down the right wing that capped the best move of a scrappy match.

Or Michael Ingham’s ninth-minute save from Romone Rose, which was a key moment in the game. Had Rose not frozen when bearing down on goal, it could have been Newport heading out of Wembley with the FA Trophy in their overhead locker.

As it was, the red-shirted men of York City were the ones who enjoyed that most sought-after of walks in all of English football, the climb up the 107 steps of Wembley to lift the cup.

Captain Chris Smith and injured midfielder Scott Kerr were the men to raise the FA Trophy aloft, but there was an equally large cheer when hero Blair got his hands on the silverware, and when manager Gary Mills followed.

In just 18 months, Mills has built on the foundations laid by Martin Foyle with sensible additions on the field.

He has also emboldened York mentally, allowing them to play with freedom and confidence, while simultaneously strengthening their resolve.

York have lost just four times away from home all season, which is a creditable feat whatever the standard of football.

In three crucial games over the last 10 days, they have conceded just one goal, despite never completely getting the better of their opponents.

Newport, the Welsh underdogs, were the better side in the first half; quicker to the ball, stronger in midfield and more creative up front.

Aside from Rose’s one-on-one miss, Nat Jarvis could also have given the Welsh outsiders the half-time advantage.

York, though, are a second-half team, as seasoned observers of the Minstermen stress frequently.

Their goals come late in games, a testament to their superior fitness and strength of character.

So it proved again.

Mills’s response to a first half in which 17-year-old Newport midfielder Lee Evans underlined his star potential by running the show for the Welshmen, was to ask his front three to press further up the pitch, and for his defenders and midfielders to have the confidence to find them with the early ball.

The combination was a winning one.

York had more thrust and direction in the second period, the dry pitch having not been as condusive to their passing football as they would have liked in the first 45 minutes.

Ben Gibson and Jason Walker both had chances before the breakthrough on 65 minutes.

It came out of nothing, a lofted ball over the top by Ashley Chambers that sprang Newport’s high line.

Blair, York’s big-game hunter, galloped off in pursuit. A quick glance to assistant referee Sian Massey told him he was onside and, as Thompson raced off his line, Blair met the ball first, toeing it over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Off he went to the deliriously excited York supporters, the third time he has found the net in front of his home fans in such dramatic circumstances.

Eight minutes later, a game that had been in the balance for so long was effectively ended by the Yorkshire club.

York’s veteran right-back Jon Challinor, twice a beaten Wembley finalist with other clubs, dinked a ball to Chambers on the right wing with the outside of his foot.

Chambers – a constant menace and York’s most effective player – darted to the byline, taking defenders with him, and squared the ball to Oyebanjo four yards from goal.

The midfielder made the easiest of tap-ins look difficult but few cared as the net bulged once more.

York had turned a tense game into an accomplished victory.

There was still time for a few nerve-jangling moments; finals are not meant to be won easily.

Central defenders Gary Warren and Ismail Yakubu threatened from set-pieces for gallant County and the latter headed against a post in the 88th minute.

But Ingham, confident and assured throughout, was not to be beaten.

Justin Edinburgh, the Newport manager, sat in the post-match press conference as Foyle had done three years previously, lamenting his side’s fortune while looking upon the occasion as a platform for progression over the coming years. Edinburgh was also irked by the Football Association for the red tape that prevented him fielding first-choice goalkeeper Karl Dallow.

A Football Association Trophy victory can indeed be a platform for progression and York will hope to make that leap sooner rather than later, preferably next Sunday.

Yet for the large majority of clubs that ply their trade in English football, the chance to win silverware at the national stadium comes along all too infrequently.

York seized the opportunity on Saturday, and for that deserve great credit. This success also deserves to be acknowledged for what it was, regardless of whether Sunday’s more important mission is accomplished.

For make no mistake, this was a grand old day for York City FC.