Image Credit: Dom Smith
YORK CITY continued their excellent form as three goals in 12 second-half minutes ensured they beat Darlington and moved to within two points of sixth-place Southport in the Vanarama National League North. Yet for all of the first half and much of the second, this victory didn't look forthcoming at all.
York started the evening in seventh, propping up the play-off places by the skin of their teeth. Darlington were sat in 11th, right in the middle of mid-table mediocrity. And yet it was the visitors whose fluid interchanges brought them joy out wide.
Darlington’s Kevin dos Santos and then Jake Cassidy both arrowed over with fierce shots cutting in from the left.
Kurt Willoughby is comfortably one of York’s best players, and he started to leave his impression on this tie as the Minstermen grew into a tight and often lifeless first half. He fired a powerful curling effort from range which fell just wide of the net with keeper Tommy Taylor scrambling to reach it. Within moments, he’d wound up another — this time it was blocked as he struck low.
Until York struck two quickfire goals in the second half, this looked set to be a match remembered for a number of bizarre errors from referee Dane McCarrick. His first came in the 27th minute when York’s AJ Greaves scythed down Darlington captain Will Hatfield when aggrieved the referee hadn’t blown for a supposed foul on Lenell John-Lewis. The ref gave Greaves a yellow and although he went off injured for quite how powerfully he’d hit Hatfield, frankly he should have been dismissed immediately for such a vitriolic challenge.
John-Lewis ate up the ground on 35-year-old former England U21 international David Wheater as the interval approached. But his driven effort was parried smartly by Taylor.
The referee might have been booed down the tunnel by the York faithful at half-time, but those boos were soon raucous cheers. Willoughby gave the home supporters the moment they craved in this cagey affair, his cross finding its way all the way past Taylor and in for a York lead.
No sooner had the home supporters taken their newfound lead in, than their team had bombed forward once more and doubled it. Mitch Wilcox beat the offside trap to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He slotted home coolly and celebrated by collapsing onto the floor much to the fans’ amusement.
For Darlington, it was tough. They’d worked so hard to stay level with the league’s most in-form side — York had won six of their last seven before this — only to concede twice in two minutes.
That hurt was compounded on 80 minutes when substitute Clayton Donaldson made a nuisance of himself in the box and earned John Askey’s side a penalty. Donaldson himself took responsibility, and powered accurately into the bottom right corner. York were 3–0 up and returning to winning ways after Hereford stole a late draw last time out.
The visitors huffed and puffed and Cameron Thompson got a goal he so richly deserved as he jinked into the box and tucked into the roof of the net. York barely had time to kick off before the ref blew his whistle for the final time.
"We want to win every game," said the league's manager of the month Askey after the game. "That's the objective." They nearly are winning every match at the moment. The Minstermen kicked on in the second half here. They deserved this.