The matchday preview: York City vs Leamington

Could Kempster return from injury to fire York towards the playoffs on Saturday? Photograph © Ian Parker / Ice Photography
20 Apr 2018 @ 8.53 am
| Sport

York City’s season at Bootham Crescent comes to an end this Saturday, when they take on Leamington looking to salvage something from their season.

FC United of Manchester vs York City

Bootham Crescent

Apr 21st 2018, 3pm KO

The sunshine is finally here, but York City’s season is fading glimmer of light. Four straight defeats without scoring have all but ended their playoff chances.

City are still two points outside the playoffs, but with Chorley and Spennymoor having one and two games in hand over them respectively, it would be unlikely to see York take a playoff spot, even if they win their last two games.

They face another side battling against relegation this weekend. Leamington are just one place above the drop zone and a win at York will be absolutely vital for their survival hopes.

Louis Almond has been ruled out of the game after suffering a calf strain, while Alex Pattison is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Alex Kempster could return to the team after training well this week, but Jon Parkin will still be unavailable with his knee injury.

National League North Table

Scroll horizontally to see all the info

1Salford City40277675433288
2Harrogate Town40257894464882
3Brackley Town392111768353374
4Kidderminster Harriers401912972472569
5Stockport County401981373561765
7Spennymoor Town38178136762559
8Bradford P A40169156154757
9York City40169156358557
10Blyth Spartans39181207265755
12Boston United39158166364-153
14FC United of Manchester40148185869-1150
17AFC Telford United39145205065-1547
18Alfreton Town40137206670-446
19Curzon Ashton391113155059-946
20Gainsborough Trinity40134234270-2843
22North Ferriby Utd3938282197-7617

York City preview

We’re all to blame

Dejected Minstermen leave the pitch after a fourth straight defeat. Photograph: Antony Higgs

Manager Martin Gray has continuously chopped and changed his starting line-up over the last month, but nothing has been able to stop a truly horrific run of form.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Gray continued to reiterate that the poor mentality has been the biggest downfall of his players this season.

Gray wants his squad to take inspiration from league leaders Salford. Despite not having a stylish brand of football, Salford have managed to maintain a winning philosophy and the City manager has put that down to having a strong mentality.

One player who Gray does believe his players should take more inspiration from is experienced midfielder Simon Heslop. The midfielder is considered a leader who shows bravery on and off the ball, but the manager said his team need at least six or seven more like-minded players to become successful.

He said:

We’re all to blame for what’s happened and we’re all in it together, so we’ve got to get out of it together. I have to lead from the front and the players have to lead out on the pitch.

I think Salford will win the championship in my opinion, because of their desire and toughness. To go forward as a club, we’ve got to bring in the right people with the same mentality.

When the going has got tough, Simon has been the one, for me, who has really shone through and I can see why he’s played a lot of Football League games.

He’s brave on and off the ball and does not hide away, so you look at him as a lead for other players to follow. We’ve got one or two leaders in the team, but you need six or seven potential captains with that leadership mentality.


Martin Gray feels more players should follow in the footsteps of Simon Heslop. Photograph © Ian Parker / Ice Photography

With the playoffs no longer in their hands, it seems Gray is already making plans for another season in the National League North.

The manager was keen to point out that there are plans in place for signings to be made ‘asap’ once the season finishes, and he wants to bring in the type of personalities that saw his four-year-stint at Darlington become a huge success.

Over the last few weeks, the likes of sporting director Dave Penney have mentioned how certain players are playing for their futures at the club as the season comes to a close.

It seems that Martin Gray will decide who he wants to keep in his squad depending on their mentality. Gray told the media on Thursday that he is not necessarily looking to bring in the ‘best’ footballers, but rather the ‘bravest’.

With Jason McGill out of the picture, Gray has assured there is a transfer budget in place for the summer to bring in the players the manager requires, saying:

“We need a sensible, playing budget that attracts players to come, but pays the right wages for the level we are at. I’m meeting players this week and working very hard with the board of directors to make some signings as soon as possible, because we’ve got to reinvent the wheel here.

“I’ve been told I have a blank sheet of paper to create the winning culture I had at Darlington. We knew at Darlington several weeks before the end of the season that we wouldn’t be allowed to take part in the play-offs, but still won four of our last five games to finish in the top five.

“We don’t want to bring in the best footballers, we want to bring in the bravest. I need that same winning mentality here and, when I get my own players in, judge me on that.”

Leamington Preview

The Brakes have given themselves a great chance of survival. Photograph: York City Football Club
Founded: 1891
Stadium: New Windmill Ground
Capacity: 5,000 (120 seated)
Nickname: The Brakes
Colours: Yellow and black
Manager: Paul Holleran
League Position: 15th
Top Scorer: Colby Bishop (8)

In only their third season back in the National League North, Leamington have had a very inconsistent year to say the least.

Paul Holleran, who is in his ninth year as Leamington boss, has overseen a patchy year for his team and now they find themselves in a relegation scrap.

However, after a run of no win in their last 6, the Brakes pulled off a huge win last night (19th April), beating York’s playoff rivals Chorley 2-0.

That win has given both Leamington’s and York’s chances of success this season a massive boost and acts as extra motive for both to win the game on Saturday.

The Warwickshire side could guarantee their safety with a win against City, and considering their last seven wins in the league have been to-nil, they will be the favourites if they score first this weekend.

A familiar face will play a part for Leamington on Saturday. Former York midfielder Kaine Felix will return to Bootham Crescent after he was released by City back in October.

Man to watch: Junior English

Junior has played his whole career in the top two tiers of non-league football and spent the 2016/2017 season with Worcester City, making 38 appearances and scoring three goals.

He made over 300 appearances, playing in every position except goalkeeper for Solihull Moors, and was part of the squad that won promotion to the National League in 2016.

The utility man scored against York in the reverse fixture, and will be more than confident defending against a City side that haven’t scored in their last four.

H2H stats

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Last time out: York threw away a two goal lead in the final five minutes to draw 2-2 with Leamington. Two goals from David Ferguson and Jon Parkin had put the Minstermen well on their way to winning.

However, a Junior English pulled a goal back capitalising on a defensive lapse with five minutes left, and less than three minutes later, substitute Liam Canavan equalised – picking up a throw just inside the box and curling a shot inside the far post.

Despite being fourth bottom, Leamington are actually the more in form team going into this one. In the last eight games, the Brakes have picked up 10 points to York’s 7.

Leamington have only lost more games and conceded one less goal than City this season despite their position, putting into perspective just how tight the league has been this season.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides at Bootham Crescent, and potentially the last if Leamington go down.

Higgs Predicts

That Leamington win over Chorley should give City extra optimisim going into this one. After four straight defeats on the bounce without scoring, the likes of David Ferguson were turning their attention to focusing on next season, but their playoff hopes are not over just yet.

A City win could put them back in the top seven if Chorley fail to win, and that would be exactly the confidence boost City would need going into their last game against Brackley. A win is absolutely vital.

The problem is, who is going to put it in the net? Even though City played better in as a team in the first half away at FC United, you still never felt they were going to score, and that is not a good sign at this stage of the season.

Hopefully, with it being the last home game of the season and the playoffs still not out of the question, City will finally get that all important goal that will hopefully bring that all important victory. It would be the least they could do to salvage something from a poor 2018 for the Minstermen.

Call me crazy… I’m going for a home win.

Higgs predicts: York City 2-1 Leamington