The matchday preview: FC United of Manchester vs York City

The City faithful are finding it hard to keep the faith. Photograph: Antony Higgs
16 Apr 2018 @ 8.52 pm
| Sport

York City have only nine points left to play for as they travel to FC United of Manchester on Tuesday evening.

FC United of Manchester vs York City

Broadhurst Park

Apr 17th 2018, 7.45pm KO

Losing a third game on the bounce with no goals scored against a semi-pro Gainsborough Trinity side fighting relegation on Saturday was perhaps the lowest moment in the club’s history.

It means the playoffs are no longer in the Minstermen’s hands. After being in the top seven for three months, they now lead the chasing pack with just three games remaining.

Like Gainsborough, FC United of Manchester are another side that will be desperate for three points against City to keep their survival hopes alive.

There is both good and bad news on the injury front for York. Alex Kempster will be fit to start after many feared the worst when he hobbled off on Saturday.

Meanwhile, City fans can expect to see the return of Louis Almond in the team, after manager Martin Gray confirmed that he will travel to Manchester after recovering from a hamstring injury.

However, midfielder Alex Pattison is doubtful to play a part in Tuesday’s game. The Middlesborough loanee was subbed at half time with worries that he may have made his injury worse.

National League North Table

Scroll horizontally to see all the info

1Salford City39267674433185
2Harrogate Town39257794435182
3Brackley Town382111668343474
4Kidderminster Harriers391911971462568
5Stockport County391971372551764
7Spennymoor Town36177126559658
8York City39169146357657
9Bradford P A39159156054654
10Blyth Spartans37171197064652
13Boston United38148166064-450
15FC United of Manchester39138185769-1247
16Alfreton Town40137206670-446
17Curzon Ashton381112154857-945
19AFC Telford United38135204965-1644
21Gainsborough Trinity39124234170-2940
22North Ferriby Utd3838272196-7517

York City preview

‘A three game season’

Gray has asked fans to be patient with his team. Photograph © Ian Parker / Ice Photography

York City manager Martin Gray looked a defeated man after Saturday’s disappointing result.

Only a subs bench and a fence separated him from a large group of frustrated City fans jeering him with ‘Gray out’ and ‘time to go’ chants, which made for ugly scenes at the final whistle.

After the game, Gray apologised to the fans while pointing out that he hopes to ‘get the opportunity’ to turn things around at the club.

That led many to believe that the manager’s job may not be as safe as sporting director Dave Penney recently made it out to be.

However, speaking to the media on Monday morning (Apr 16th), Gray seemed much more optimistic about the future, as he prepares for another must win game in completely different circumstances.

Gray described Saturday as the hardest day of his management career, but still believes that City can win their next three games and make the playoffs.

The manager is confident that if his team start to ‘play for the badge’, supporters will soon be back on side. He said:

It’s been the hardest weekend I’ve had in management, something I never want to experience again.

We have a three-game season in front of us and we are where we are, so we’ve got to make sure we maximise this opportunity of three games. If we do that, we will finish the season on a real, real positive and will still have a chance of finishing in the play-offs.

I spent almost all of Sunday on the phone speaking to lots of people in the game, who have been through similar and far worse circumstances and it’s great to have the support of people who believe in what you’re doing.

We’ve got to give the fans something to shout for. I totally understand and I am as frustrated as they are. We’ve got to make sure we play for the badge, with honesty and determination, that’s all it’s about, and if we do that, they will stick by us.

A plea for patience

Gray bemoans a lack of mental toughness in his squad. Photograph © Ian Parker / Ice Photography

If there is one common feature to be found in all of Martin Gray’s interviews with the media, it’s his obsession with a ‘strong mentality’ and his side’s lack of it.

One player who has been under the spotlight is struggling striker James Gray.

After the Gainsborough defeat, the manager mentioned how he didn’t involve Gray in the game because of the ‘fans hammered him’ in the warm up.

Many fans interpreted this as Gray partly blaming supporters for the striker’s poor performances. However, when asked about it on Monday, Gray simply pleaded with fans to be more patient with his team despite their frustrations.

Gray opted to put central defender Hamza Bencherif up front in the second half on Saturday, to add more of a physical presence. Bencherif has yet to score in 60 outings for the Minstermen, but to be fair, he did the number 9 role justice.

The manager praised the defender’s effort on Saturday, and didn’t rule out favouring him as a makeshift striker again, rather than reintroducing outcast forward Raul Corriea to the York City starting line-up.

Gray feels that Correia has simply not been good enough since arriving on loan from Blackpool in January.

He said: “Players are fragile. The mentality in the modern era of the game is not like it was ten years ago, but it’s all about mentality at this stage of the season.

“From Saturday night we were looking at how we can freshen things up with getting that side of the game right, because football isn’t about how good you are or how many passes you make, it’s about having the right mentality to be a successful player.

“Some footballers, when they get heavily criticised before going on to the pitch, it doesn’t make them feel any better in themselves. I understand the frustrations of the fans, but equally if they can just try to be a little bit patient, that helps.

“I think you’ve got to be honest, he [Correia] hasn’t done well enough has he? There’s no point in hiding behind the facts, if he’d have done well enough then he’d be out on the field, but he hasn’t and I’m not one to try and protect somebody who can’t be protected.”

FC United preview

City hoping to be heads up over United this time around. Photograph © Ian Parker / Ice Photography
FC United of Manchester
Founded: 2005
Stadium: Broadhurst Park
Capacity: 4,400
Nickname: The Reds, United
Colours: Red, white and black (Black and White away)
Manager: Tom Greaves (Player/manager)
League Position: 15th
Top Scorer: Tom Greaves (10)

FC United are not just a football club, they are symbol of resistance against the capitalist world of modern football.

The club was formed in 2005 and originally funded by more than 4,000 disgruntled Manchester United fans, who were opposed to the takeover of the American billionaires Glazer family at the Old Trafford giants.

It took the club just ten years to climb four divisions to within two of the Football League, but they have found life to be quite difficult in the sixth tier over the last three seasons.

Their manager of 11 years since their formation, Karl Marginson, left the club back in November, after a poor start to the season saw them lingering around the bottom three.

To make matters worse, they also lost the league’s top scorer, Jason Gilchrist to NLN rivals Southport, although the Port paid FC United a significant amount of money for his services.

The manager’s job was given to all-time top scorer and club legend Tom Greaves, who after taking the player/manager role, guided the club away from danger with just one defeat in 9 matches stretching from the beginning of December to the end of January.

However, that form has stagnated in 2018. They have only picked up 14 points from a possible 39 in 13 games since January 20th, meaning they are now just three points outside the relegation places.

The 2-1 defeat to Darlington on Saturday was only their second loss on home soil in 2018, and they now have the worst goals conceded record outside the bottom three (69).

United must now look to get something from Tuesday’s game, knowing that one more win from their last three games should be enough to guarantee their safety.

Man to watch: Joel Senior

The dynamic young full back is one of the most promising players amongst FC United’s ranks. Nineteen-year-old Senior is a constant threat on the right flank and will often make dangerous bursts into the opposition box, without forgetting his defensive duties.

Senior has made 38 appearances for United and has played a significant part in both the attack and defence of the team; providing a number of assists from the right, while being tough to beat in his right back role.

H2H stats

[arve url=”” title=”York City 0-2 FCUM 28.08.2017″ /]
Last time out: City midfielder Simon Heslop was sent off, as City went down to their second defeat of the season. FCUM took full advantage of their numerical advantage in the last half an hour, as goals from player-manager Tom Greaves and ex-top scorer Jason Gilchrist sealed victory in their first ever game against City.

FC United have only lost 2 home games (to Stockport and Darlington), since September. York however, have not won an away match since the 5-3 Telford victory on January 16th.

Although United have conceded more than all but the bottom three sides, they have kept 5 clean sheets from their last seven home games. York on the other hand, haven’t kept an away clean sheet since August, and have only managed two on the road all season.

The year FC United were formed (2005), York finished fourth in the conference, and cult hero Clayton Donaldson finished top scorer with 26 goals. York lost to Morecambe in the play off semi-finals (1-1 home draw first leg, 2-1 to Morecambe second leg).

Higgs Predicts

Many fans saw Saturday’s defeat as the final nail in the coffin for York City this season.

The manager feels that York can still win their last three games. That’s exactly what they’d need to do to even be in with a shout now, as it is no longer in their own hands.

The way York have been playing, I find it hard to see where the next goal is going to come from, never mind the next win. However, Alex Kempster showed signs that we may see him back on the score sheet sooner rather than later, and the return of Louis Almond tomorrow night can only increase the Minstermen’s goal threat.

FC United don’t concede many goals at home, and after the defeat to Darlington on Saturday, I can imagine they will be well fired up for this one. They are in desperate need of three points for their survival.

If York fail to win tomorrow night, that will be the end of their playoff chances, and the way things are going, I find it hard to see how they can dig themselves out of this bad run of form. I was wrong to predict a draw in the last three games, but it’s a result I’m going for again…

Higgs predicts: FC United of Manchester 1-1 York City