Wembley the only word to spur York on to final

SOME football managers ban all talk of Wembley in the dressing room.

Not Gary Mills.

At five minutes to three at Kenilworth Road today, Mills will send out his York City side for the second leg of their FA Trophy semi-final against Luton Town with just one word ringing in their ears.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Wembley” will be the cry – a tactic the former European Cup winner has used throughout the tournament.

“I’ve been saying ‘Wembley’ in front of the players right from day one,” said Mills, whose team hold a 1-0 advantage from last Saturday’s first leg.

“Some managers don’t like to talk about Wembley for fear of tempting fate, but, in my case, I’ve been using it as motivation since our first-round game against Solihull Moors.

“I’ve actually been writing ‘Wembley’ on the flip-chart in front of the players because, if I’m a player sitting there looking at that, it would definitely give me that extra yard.

“That’s what I’ve done every round so far and I hope it’s served as an inspiration.”

Mills’s tactic can hardly be faulted. After Solihull were dispatched 3-0 in a replay, York have gone on to beat Salisbury 6-2, Ebbsfleet 1-0 and Grimsby 1-0 to reach the semi-finals.

Jamie Reed’s penalty gave them a slender advantage over Luton last week but the Minstermen missed a chance to put the tie beyond reach.

Luton played just over the last half hour with only nine men, following the sendings-off of Jake Howells and Keith Keane, but dogged defending kept York at bay – much to the frustration of some home supporters, whose booing at full-time infuriated Mills.

“I reacted in my post-match comments because it’s the first time I’ve ever been booed for winning a game,” he reflected.

“I know how much it means to my players and how hard they worked, so I wasn’t very happy to hear some people booing.

“But sometimes it’s difficult in situations like that. I remember playing in a game for Notts County where we were 2-0 up and ended up drawing 2-2, so I know what it’s like and how difficult it can be.

“Last week’s game was a strange one all round.

“Yes, the opportunity was there to maybe get another goal at least and to maybe go down there with a two-goal cushion, but we didn’t do that.

“But the most important thing was to keep a clean sheet. They know that they’ve got to come out and score, and I think that will suit us.”

Despite holding the edge, Mills promises York will look to be positive. They are unbeaten in 11 away games in all competitions, the most recent a dramatic 3-2 victory at Grimsby on Tuesday which catapulted them back into the Blue Square Premier Division play-off positions.

“I thought that was our best performance of the season,” said Mills. “We went 2-0 up, should have gone 5-0 up and ended up being pegged back to 2-2, only to score the winning goal in injury time.

“A lot of teams would have ended up losing the game after conceding a two-goal lead but we went on to win it.

“That shows what we’re about and the character of the side, and to play like that before a semi-final second leg can only give us confidence.

“But we can only play one way as we’ve proved all season – and that’s to go at teams as best we can.

“We’ve got our noses in front against Luton so we don’t have to panic; we don’t have to rush to take free-kicks, corners, throw-ins or anything like that.

“But we do have to keep disciplined and make sure we’ve got a good tempo about us.

“We can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal and we’ve got to go at Luton as best we can.”

The semi-final is intriguingly poised. York’s splendid away run is offset by the fact Luton – two places above them in the league – have not conceded a goal in their last 10 matches at home, a club record.

Away goals do not count double in the FA Trophy so, were York to lose 2-1 for example, the tie would go to extra time and then penalties if required.

It would appear to be anyone’s guess who will reach Wembley on May 12, where they would meet either Wealdstone or Newport County, who play in Greater London today after the first leg finished 3-1 in Newport’s favour.