Since my trip to Bristol Rovers on the first day of the season, I hadn’t ticked off another of my 92. I had Inadvertently been drawn in by the excitement and romance of non-league football. Keen to get my mission back on track, we had planned a trip to York in the February Half Term. Lucy was staying with me for the week, and after going to Curzon Ashton v Burscough on the Monday it was time to head to Yorkshire.
Blog regular Joe Lawton studies in York, which meant we could crash at his student accommodation for the evening. The other regular on the blog, Aaron studies at Huddersfield which meant he’d meet up with us there before heading on to deepest darkest Yorkshire.
The last time I saw York play was in an FA Cup match at The Reebok against Bolton Wanderers. I thought the then non-league side fought incredibly hard, and were desperately unlucky not to knock us out. If it hadn’t been for two late goals from Johan Elmander and Kevin Davies, we would have had an FA Cup upset on our hands.
With my Lancashire cricket shirt packed, Lucy and I set off to Piccadilly to catch the 13:30 train from Manchester to York. It was relatively quiet, and Aaron soon joined us. Pulling into Leeds, a group of lads boarded with some shopping bags, a suitcase… and a flat screen television. It did look a bit strange, and it soon became clear what they were up to.
Unpacking the new television, they plugged it into the plug socket on the table. They then opened the suitcase, and an XBOX 360 with a selection of games soon appeared. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see them playing on it for long as the train soon pulled into York.
Joe was running late as usual, so instructed us to walk towards the Minster. He soon strolled up the pavement… standing out of the crowd with his white chinos on. I soon began to ask Joe questions such as “Why has historic York got loads of old walls?” Unfortunately he didn’t bite, and we made it to York Minster where our tour of the city began.
The last time I visited York I was 9 years old, and I didn’t enjoy myself at all. All I could remember is that it was a long way from home to walk around in awful weather. I soon changed my mind on the city though, with just five minutes of walking around the place I actually began to like it…. and believe me, that confession doesn’t come lightly!
The cobbled streets were relatively quiet. The tea shops were still full of people eager to have a taste of the famous York tea, and the food markets were being set up for the evening trade. We stopped off at an old traditional pub called the Black Swan. A quick drink in there, perched by an old log fire, and we were ready to press on to Joe’s house.
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at Joe’s house in the middle of suburban Yorkshire. It was time to bang the TV on, just in time for all of the evening TV game show quizzes. Pointless, The Chase, Tipping Point… You name it, we watched it. The strangest thing of the evening, was when I walked into the kitchen and saw the woman off The Chase looking at me from the neighbouring window!
Joe cooked a lasagne from scratch, and we were soon on our way to Bootham Crescent.
One of Joe’s housemates, Tom was coming to the match with us. It turns out Tom lives around 5 minutes away from me, and also went to my college. It is a very small world.
Whilst walking to the match, we were introduced to one of their “student games”. If somebody says they’re going to do something, and another person shouts eyebrow after it… then they have to do it, otherwise their eyebrow gets shaved off.
With it being Shrove Tuesday, Joe was telling us that he planned on “Eating hundreds of pancakes when he gets home!” – This statement was closely followed by the shout of “EYEBROW!”… We will catch up with this story after the match.
A quick pit stop at the Bookies, and we turned the corner to Bootham Crescent. The tall floodlights reflected around the windows of the residential area. The tannoy system filled the air with the palpable feel of a night match.
I purchased two matchday programmes, which were just £2 each as they were being re-used from the postponed fixture back in December. I bought one for Zack, who was at Real Madrid v Manchester United. Oh how the other half live!
Being the anorak that I am, I really wanted a paper ticket to add to my collection. I’m not keen on paying on the gate. So with this in mind, off I went to the Ticket Office to try and negotiate a paper ticket for the match. It wasn’t too much of a problem, and I soon caught up with the other who had already paid and were waiting for me on the other side.
We opted to stand in the David Longhurst Stand which can be found behind the net. Originally named the Shipton Street End, it was renamed in memory of former player David Longhurst who died in 1990, during a match between York and Lincoln City at Bootham Crescent. The stand holds 3,062 vocal home fans.
Opposite the David Longhurst Stand was the Grosvenor Road End. An open terrace which is capable of holding 1,400 visiting supporters. Gillingham took around 500 fans to York on a cold Tuesday evening, so full credit to them.
To the right of us was the Popular Stand… which rather ironically didn’t prove too popular with the home fans! Holding 1,652 home supporters, it has a television gantry on top, and is dwarfed by a collection of large illuminated trees which back on to the ground.
The centre piece to Bootham Crescent is the Main Stand. With a capacity of 1,757 home supporters, it runs two thirds the length of the pitch. Housed within this traditional, and rather unique stand (from the exterior) is a ticket office, changing rooms and hospitality suites.
Having lost their last two matches, York were keen to gain points against top of the table Gillingham. The Minstermen had conceded 8 goals, and were beginning to slip down the league table. Gillingham on the other hand had been in fine form under the leadership of Martin Allen, and look firm favourites to gain at least automatic promotion into League One.
The teams emerged on to the pitch. York in their red shirts, with blue shorts. Gillingham in their blue shirts, with red shirts. Personally, I found it rather confusing and got a headache.
Michael Rankine and John McGrath made their debuts for York, which seemed to go down very well with the home fans. Rankine was Yorks top goalscorer in the 2010-2011 season, so it appeared to be a great piece of business by York manager Gary Mills who brought him in on loan from Aldershot.
It was York who had the first opportunity of the match when McGrath and Rankine combined with great build up play. The ball then fell to Swansea City loanee Curtis Obeng who lifted his effort over the crossbar.
On 15 minutes Stuart Nelson denied Rankine a goal, with his first effort of the match. Jon Challinor fired a long ball across the field, and defender Leon Legge was unable to prevent Rankine heading the ball towards goal.
Gillingham came close five minutes later when Coventry City loannee Cody McDonald smashed the ball into the side of the net. McDonald had picked up Chris Whelpdales through ball, and rather than squaring the ball to Deon Burton he opted to go alone, and wasted a certain goalscoring opportunity.
Matty Blair and Curtis Obeng were running the midfield, and you really couldn’t tell that Gillingham were top of the league. The home side were applying all of the pressure, and had sustained periods of possession. Unfortunately for the Minstermen, the away side had a blanket defence, and Stuart Nelson in the Gillingham goal was making some superb saves.
The highlight of the first half was when four successive corners came close to giving York the lead. From the first delivery Rankine was denied on the line by Legge. Rankine then went close again, but his shot was deflected wide for another corner. Another couple of corners arrived, but the Gills survived.
Half time arrived, and it was time for York City to play their brilliant music. Well, it’s brilliant if you’re a middle aged steward who likes air guitar. Highway To Hell was blasting out through the speakers, when I saw one of the stewards enjoying himself by the corner flag.
I really needed a wee, so off I went to find the toilets. Found at the rear of the terrace was an entrance which had been knocked through the breezeblock wall. I carried on walking down a path, with residential houses in front of me. Suddenly, the path then dips down a flight of steps, and you find yourself in what feels like an air raid shelter at the bottom of somebodies garden. It was a magical abyss. Definitely the most enjoyable wee I have had on my travels so far.
The teams emerged for the second half, and there was a real sense of optimism around Bootham Crescent. The Minstermen were now attacking the end where we were stood, and the home faithful were cheering them on.
York came straight out of the blocks, and McGrath fired over the bar with just a couple of minutes gone. The midfielder capitalised after Gillingham defender Adam Barrett could only clear Rankine’s shot to the edge of the area.
Gillingham almost took the lead through Andy Frampton’s long range effort. Michael Ingham dive to his bottom left, and tipped the ball around the post. It would have been a brilliant long range goal. Just a minute later, and they came close again when Joe Martin crossed in from the right. The cross was met by McDonald, who somehow headed wide from just six yards out.
York continued to break on the counter as the game became more stretched and desperate. From a neutrals perspective, it was a real whole hearted display from both sides who were keen to grab the three points.
Gillingham almost got the goal they needed with two minutes remaining on the clock. Substitute Charlie Lee struck the bar with his first touch of the game as he fired in a spectacular effort from 30 yards out.
In the final attack of the match, York should have grabbed the three points. Defender Jamal Fyfield stormed up the pitch, beating two players as he swallowed the earth in front of him. Fyfield then played an asking ball across the face of goal. Both Rankine and Blair were inches away from making a connection which would surely have seen the ball nestle into the back of the net.
It was time to leave Bootham Crescent, and unfortunately I don’t think I’ll see the place again. The club have had the go ahead to build a brand new all seater stadium with the view to move there within the next couple of years. Again, it’s another traditional ground which is going to be demolished and taken away from us forever. This visit came on the same day that it was announced Barnet will be leaving Underhill at the end of the season, another huge blow.
Leaving through the gates of the football ground stood two women with boxes of pies, hotdogs and burgers. Unlike at The Reebok, where all the food goes home with the foreign workforce, York were keen to dish remaining treats out to their fans.
“THEY’VE GOT PIES? I LIVE IN WIGAN! LET ME IN!”
You couldn’t have written it really. If you’ve read my Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday blogs, you’ll know that they do my favourite pies. I’m not sure of the suppliers, but they also do the pies at York. I was a very, very happy boy.
With our pies and hotdogs devoured, attention soon returned to the pancakes. It was decided that Joe had to prepare and eat 101 pancakes before midnight, otherwise his eyebrows would be no more. The pancakes had to be at least the size of a 2 pence coin, and would be checked by me.
At 23:36 Joe had finished cooking his 101 pancakes. They looked barely edible, and we really feared for his wellbeing… but we didn’t tell him, and allowed him to tuck into them. With Lucy filming it… here’s what happened! It’s a must watch…
That was the end of an eventful evening.
The following morning we had to be up and out of the house very early as all of the lads had University to go to. Lucy and I strolled down into the city centre, and enjoyed a nice cup of tea in Betty’s. Would have been rude not to.
Overall, I really enjoyed the time we spent in York. The people are friendly. The place is laid back. The football club is relatively well supported in the local area, and more importantly, I didn’t get glared at when I was walking around in my Bolton Wanderers coat.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 79.1 miles
- ADMISSION: £10 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2
- PIE: Free!