York City's Steve Watson spreads blame as wasteful Minstermen miss their shot at promotion

Not being sharp enough in front of goal was, according to York City manager Steve Watson, the reason his team even had to go through the Conference North play-offs, never mind why they lost their semi-final at home to Altrincham, but he was keen to spread the blame around.

The Minstermen scored fewer goals in the regular season than points-per-game champions King's Lynn Town and Saturday's visitors Altrincham, as well as having the poorest goal difference of the top three despite winning most points before the coronavirus brought matters to a halt.

They outplayed their visitors at Bootham Crescent on Saturday, but wayward finishing condemned them to a 2-0 semi-final defeat.

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“We did a lot right today,” commented former Sheffield Wednesday full-back Watson at full-time. “But that kind of sums up the reason why we didn't win the league before points-per-game even came into play. That's not pointing the fingers at any particular positions, as a group, as a squad when you look at the number of balls we've had fizzed across the goal, especially by (wing-backs) Dave Ferguson and Griff (Kallum Griffiths), the amount of great quality balls from set-pieces, and we simply haven't scored enough goals. We haven't enough from set-pieces, from midfield, from the wing-backs. We've had goals from the strikers but could they have had more? They probably could.

FRUSTRATION: York City manager Steve WatsonFRUSTRATION: York City manager Steve Watson
FRUSTRATION: York City manager Steve Watson

“That would be the reason we even went to a play-off.

“It's a bitter pill to swallow and there wasn't a great deal between the teams but one of the main things I've written on the wall (in the dressing room) is 'We must score.' You can't win a cup final, which is what this basically was, unless you score a goal and that's where we find ourselves.”

Altrincham conceded very few clear-cut chances, but took two, Josh Hancock capitalising on some defensive indecision to open the scoring inside ten minutes, and substitute Thomas Peers putting the result beyond doubt when Jordan Hulme's effort bounced off the crossbar to him.

At the other end, Alex Kempster missed an early chance, 15-goal top-scorer Jordan Burrow missed four decent opportunities, Adam Buxton dragged a shot wide, Paddy McLaughlin hit one against a defender, Griffiths had a half-volley saved, substitute Dan Maguire was off target with a header and Sean Newton hit the crossbar – although it looked more like a mishit cross than a shot .

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“There were many chances, many balls across the goal, but not many clean shots taken,” reflected Watson. “I thought they had one entry into our box in first half and they scored the goal.

“That sounds simplistic.

“It was certainly nothing to do with effort, fitness or anything like that, we just needed to be more clinical and it just didn't happen.

“Scoring goals is why people win leagues. We've been strong enough and played a good shape throughout the season, taking away the odd game like Hereford at home and Boston away our defensive record as a team will stand up to anything in the country, probably, but that's the reason why we haven't gone up automatically. We just haven't scored enough goals from all areas.”

The National League play-off system meant fifth-placed Altrincham had come through a quarter-final, beating Chester City 3-2, whereas York's only football since early march was a friendly against Halifax Town which did not last 90 minutes.

Watson refused to use that as an excuse.

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“We weren't pulled apart, it was just the bobbles went their way and it was good feet from Hulme at the end but it came off the bar straight to somebody and that just didn't happen for us,” he said.

“But I'm not somebody who makes a lot of excuses, we weren't good enough in front of goal and that's why we didn't win the game.”

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