RENOWNED FA Cup fighters of yore, York City did their best to keep that proud tradition intact in the final 20 minutes of last night’s game.
Not that furious manager Nigel Worthington took any solace from that whatsoever.
The vastly-experienced boss was far more concerned with what happened before that, which he labelled as “pathetic” and questioned the attitude of some players, speaking of supporters being “robbed”.
A bewildering home performance, as turbo-charged in the final quarter as it was careless in the slow lane prior to that, just failed to provide a sting in the tail.
But over the course of the piece, York did not deserve to progress as Worthington acknowledged.
After 50 minutes, Bristol Rovers were full value for a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from former Sheffield United loanee John-Joe O’Toole, Oliver Norburn and ex-York player Chris Beardsley.
Regardless of York’s fightback through Wes Fletcher’s quickfire double, the Bristol side, managed by former York boss John Ward, merited their victory.
In the final analysis, a crippling combination of lame performance levels and lack of responsibility, allied to a bit of bad luck, ensured York bowed out of the competition on a chilly night.
Fletcher’s double – the first from the spot, the second a rasping low shot – saw the hosts spark into belated life, seemingly realising suddenly they were in a cup tie.
After his goals on 70 and 71 minutes, Fletcher was denied a remarkable hat-trick when an effort was too close to Steve Mildenhall. But it was all too late.
Games between York and Rovers this term have yielded plenty of goals, 11 between the pair in two meetings prior to last night, and now 16 in three games.
But for Worthington, a resolute defender in his playing days and a manager who likes to keep the back door shut, the trio of matches have provided mostly defensive headaches.
In mitigation, it looked one of those nights early on for a weakened York side, right from shortly before the kick-off when they were forced to make a late change to their starting line-up when Michael Ingham picked up an injury in the warm-up. Summer signing Chris Kettings was handed a shock debut.
The ex-Blackpool custodian was given precious little protection by York’s rearguard, forced into a further reshuffle at the break when Chris Smith was stretchered off.
Worthington, angered by a soft concession in the weekend draw with Plymouth, had spoken about his side – and more especially his defenders – manning up and taking responsibility at the back.
But his words appear to have fallen on deaf ears and a dereliction of duty in the first period saw Rovers bully the hosts and expose York’s meekness at crosses and set-pieces.
It did not get any better on the restart despite Worthington making three interval changes, albeit with Smith’s departure ensuring one was enforced.
Twenty-eight years to the day since York won a first-round cup replay at Morecambe to spark off a memorable run which ended in a replay loss at Anfield in the sixth round to eventual winners Liverpool, the Minstermen’s hopes of anything resembling a repeat looked ravaged from the off.
The tone was set early on when Kettings showed his mettle to tip over a firm header from O’Toole – but the respite proved temporary.
York’s defensive failings reared their ugly head again as they failed to clear their lines and after Elliott Richards’s effort hit a post, O’Toole was on hand to bundle home the rebound.
York’s best moment of the half arrived just minutes later with a splendidly-improvised acrobatic effort from Fletcher hitting the woodwork, but with the visiting defence all at sea, top-scorer Ryan Jarvis’s weak follow-up was held by Mildenhall.
It was Rovers who displayed any vestiges of slickness and polish in the first period, with O’Toole testing Kettings with a low effort before Lee Brown almost turned in a cross-shot from the lively Richards as York switched off again.
Industrious up front and assertive in midfield, Rovers looked a far cry from a side without a win in 15 night games away from the Memorial Stadium, although they were helped by a disjointed home display.
Beardsley seemed to rubberstamp Rovers’ progress early in the second period after York were caught dozing following a corner with Richards going close to a fourth before York were handed a chance at consolation.
Tom Lockyer fouled Lewis Montrose and Fletcher promptly sent Mildenhall the wrong way from the spot and, moments later, it was incredibly game on when the ex-Burnley man blasted in a low strike.
But it proved to be Rovers’ night.
York City: Kettings; Oyebanjo, Smith (McGurk 46), Parslow, Fyfield; Clay (Chambers 46), Whitehouse, Montrose, Jarvis (Puri 46); Bowman, Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Cresswell, Platt, Allan.
Bristol Rovers: Rovers: Mildenhall; Smith, Parkes, Lockyer, Brown; Norburn, O’Toole, Clarke, Clarkson; Richards, Beardsley (Harrold 78). Unused substitutes: Gough, Harrison, Harding, Southway, Keary.
Referee: A Haines (Tyne and Wear).