Even by York City’s stop-start season, Tuesday was a particularly difficult day. It saw two fixtures postponed in quick succession – including what was to be their long-delayed first game in the new stadium.
It was called off after opponents Farsley Celtic refused to play on Saturday – hours after the Tuesday night game against Darlington was curtailed by a frozen pitch.
These were just the latest in an unprecedented number of games called off, many due to positive Covid-19 results in either the City squad or that of their opponents.
That has left the team with five games in hand on league leaders Gloucester.
The growing fixture congestion adds to the uncertainty surrounding this strangest of National League North seasons.
Last week, the Vanarama National League board asked member clubs to consider the outcome of the 2020/21 season by participating in a vote containing four different resolutions.
This came after the government said there would be no further grants available to clubs in the league.
Instead, they would offer loans via the ‘Sport Winter Survival Package’. But many lower league clubs are already teetering on the financial brink and are reluctant to go further into debt.
With clubs being given till the end of February to decide, the vote is on a knife edge. City fans have no idea how this season might end.
Here are three possible scenarios.
Scenario 1 – Potential glory
This scenario sees the vote go in favour of continuing the season – and clubs committing to continue, taking the loans if needed.
This might even be a mini-league, consisting of just those teams willing to play on. That idea has been proposed by the chairman of league leaders Gloucester City.
It would offer York City the chance to push on for promotion into the National League. And with three wins in their last six games, and just one loss, the Minstermen are in good form.
They are in seventh place with games in hand over most of their rivals. So it is no surprise that manager Steve Watson wants the season to continue.
If there is one thing that is dragging fans and players through this difficult time, it is the thought of having a crowd back when vaccinations allow, ready to spur on the mighty Minstermen.
And that could see the perfect ending to a difficult campaign. Could we be celebrating City lifting their first league title in over 38 years on the the last day of the season at home to struggling Alfreton on 29 May – in front of some sort of crowd?
Scenario 2 – An abrupt ending
Due to funding and other issues the Vanarama National League North might come to an abrupt and premature halt.
The vote that is set to be concluded at the end of this month will determine whether or not the National League, and the National Leagues North and South sides can continue.
The prospect of more debt and uncertainty mean many clubs are seriously considering voting to void the season. Ten in National League North have already voted to do just that.
This would be a blow to York City. It would condemn them to another year in this basement league, a year after they ended up top but not promoted last season.
There is a silver lining. A curtailed season would allow City more time to refine their squad and hone a title-winning team for the next campaign.
And should the league finish early, we might hopefully see the return of fans to grounds from the beginning of the 21/22 season – a huge bonus for clubs up and down the country.
Scenario 3 – Worst of both worlds
So what happens if the league struggles on, the financial strain on clubs continues and Covid causes more fixture pile-ups?
The hardest pill to swallow for City would be that they continue the season until promotion again looks in their grasp – and it is all snatched away near the end, for the second successive year.
There is certainly a danger that the season could collapse in on itself. Small National League North clubs without City’s resources could pull out of more and more games, citing financial woes or health concerns like Farsley.
And that could mean City taking the psychological and physical toll of a late-abandoned season into the start of a new campaign.
Whatever happens, this will go down as the oddest and most challenging season in City’s long history.