This article was penned by Dave Flett and first appeared in The (Yorkshire Evening) Press, thanks to our leading local paper for allowing it to appear here.
The Press' York City reporter DAVE FLETT painstakingly sifts through a campaign clearly defined but ultimately not always a joy division.
FOOTBALL might be a world-famous game of two halves but York City's 2007/8 campaign will be best remembered as a season of three thirds.
In the first, Billy McEwan lost his air of invincibility and his job after a topsy-turvy start to the season, which reached its nadir with back-to-back home defeats against part-timers Havant and Waterlooville in the FA Cup and Salisbury City in the Blue Square Premier.
McEwan's assistant Colin Walker then masterminded a 14-game unbeaten run after implementing some subtle changes to his inherited team.
The impressive sequence transformed City from possible relegation candidates to outside play-off contenders on the cusp of an FA Trophy final appearance at Wembley.
But a two-legged semi-final defeat to Torquay at the beginning of March ushered in an anti-climatic final third of the season when the Minstermen limped to the finishing post during a painfully long and, mostly meaningless, run-in.
City won just two of their last 11 fixtures - against relegated Stafford and Farsley - as the squad's early-season deficiencies returned.
With approximately 40 per cent of the sizeable 74 league goals conceded by the Minstermen originating from set-pieces, the club's Achilles heel in 2007/2008 was no secret.
Goalkeeper Tom Evans' dramatic loss of form and confidence was the biggest factor when looking for an explanation for that alarming statistic but the lack of a strong, aerial outfield presence in the penalty box was also significant.
Walker has signalled his intention to address both problems with new additions over the close season.
The decision to release early-season midfield mainstays Manny Panther and Stuart Elliott also hinted that Walker was unhappy with his team's engine-room which, aside from the promising Nicky Wroe, often spluttered.
With a club record five players reaching double figures in goals, finding the back of the net was the least of City's worries in 2007/2008.
The addition of a proven lower league/Blue Square Premier marksman, however, would ease the goalscoring burden on youngsters Richard Brodie, Onome Sodje and Martyn Woolford, should City stave off the growing band of suitors for the latter.
Woolford was City's top performer last season, marginally ahead of defensive lynchpin David McGurk, with Brodie, Wroe and Sodje others to particularly catch the eye, albeit with less consistency.
The Minstermen peaked at the end of January when a comprehensive 4-1 FA Trophy replay victory at defensively-strong Grays was followed up by the most complete performance of the season - a one-sided 2-0 home win over eventual runaway champions Aldershot.
Finding that form on a regular basis, with a smaller budget, will now provide the challenge next season.
Eliminating the morale-shattering defeats such as the 6-1 crushing at Crawley and the 3-0 shocker at Salisbury - both as awful as some of the lowlights under McEwan - is also imperative.
Jimmy Beadle: A string of uninspiring reserve displays made him a prime candidate for being released but found his feet quickly in the first team when suspension and injury gave him an unexpected chance four games from the end. Decent technically, he also brought bite to the midfield, and looked fitter and sharper within a week of making his senior debut.
Appearances: 4 Goals: 0 Rating: 7/10
Chris Beardsley: Looked very promising in flashes during pre-season but struggled with muscle spasms before his City career was derailed by a controversial broken jaw at Grays. A willing player whose campaign ended on a high, however, after promotion to the Blue Square Premier with new club Kettering.
Appearances: 4 (5) Goals: 0 Rating: 6/10
Adam Boyes: Has made big strides in the youth and reserve teams this season and has always contributed in his handful of senior outings. Displays a level of awareness that is rare in a 17-year-old.
Appearances: 0 (4) Goals: 0 Rating: 6/10
Paul Brayson: Provided fleeting examples of the deftness, opportunism and intelligence that Newcastle United recognised in his youth. But his workrate was considerably lower than the club’s other forwards and his paltry goal return did not justify him being accommodated in the team. Released half-way through the season and signed for Gateshead.
Appearances: 18 (7) Goals: 4 Rating: 5/10
Richard Brodie: The former Northern League striker’s progress was stunted following some harsh treatment from his own supporters. He was hailed as a super-sub, however, after his dramatic late double-strike against Droylsden settled a 4-3 New Year’s Day thriller and hasn’t looked back since, fulfilling the potential he showed when Billy McEwan first brought him to the club from Newcastle Benfield. Puts in a lot of hard work running down the channels and his striking partnership with Martyn Woolford proved too much for several teams, including runaway champions Aldershot.
Appearances: 25 (23) Goals: 14 Rating: 7/10
Darrren Craddock: Lost his battle for the right-back/right-wing back role with Ben Purkiss and, despite doing a decent job as a left-sided centre-back, he is unlikely to enjoy a successful career in that position. Still a little rash at times but easily capable of playing Blue Square Premier football and was put on standby for England ‘C’ during the season. Unlucky to be released but Colin Walker is in need of defensive reinforcements.
Appearances: 31 (6) Goals: 0 Rating 7/10
Sam Duncum: Injured for all but three games of his two-month loan period. Unlikely to be retained by Rotherham and showed exciting flashes of the pace that made him a county standard athlete. Will need to assure City that he can stay fit though if he accepts the invite to return to KitKat Crescent for pre-season training.
Appearances: 1 (2) Goals: 0 Rating: 6/10
Stuart Elliott: Got off to an inauspicious start when he was red-carded for aiming a punch at future team-mate Leo Fortune-West on his debut. Was also sent off on his last appearance for City after intervening in an altercation between Martyn Woolford and Woking winger Giuseppe Sole. In between, he provided moments of genuine quality – not least two spectacular goals – but struggled to boss games from the middle of the park in a manner he might have done a few seasons ago and was subsequently released.
Appearances: 41 (5) Goals: 3 Rating: 6/10
Tom Evans: Poor campaign from the former Scunthorpe ’keeper, who appeared to suffer a crisis in confidence and lost complete command of his penalty box. City’s season-long inability to defend set-pieces with any kind of certainty reflected badly on him and he will probably benefit from a move following his release.
Appearances: 47 Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Craig Farrell: Missed large chunks of the season through injury but remains an intelligent player at Blue Square Premier level when fit. Surprisingly found the scoresheet more times than when he was the Press Player of the Year and a virtual ever-present last season. The highlight of his campaign was a quickfire FA Cup hat-trick after coming on as a late substitute against Rushall Olympic.
Appearances: 21 (9) Goals: 14 Rating: 6/10
Leo Fortune-West: His arrival elicited great optimism in Colin Walker and many City fans but, despite a goalsoring debut against Grays and an impressive final hurrah against Farsley, he failed to meet such lofty expectations. Despite his intimidating physique, does not always punch his weight frustratingly and, at 37, his better days are no doubt behind him.
Appearances: 7 (6) Goals: 2 Rating: 5/10
Russell Fry: Managed six first-team outings but all of them were fairly uninspiring and it came as no surprise when the former Hull City midfielder was released in February.
Appearances: 2 (4) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Ross Greenwood: One of the few players who can genuinely complain that he wasn’t given a chance to impress by Colin Walker. Failed to feature once in the first team under Walker and spent the last few months of the season on loan at Gainsborough Trinity before being released, marking the end of a frustrating two years for the York-born former Manchester United trainee with Manchester United.
Appearances: 4 (3) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Chris Hall: The on-loan winger looked off the pace and short of match fitness when he started his only game at home to Ebbsfleet. Only featured once more as a substitute and is now likely to return to Gainsborough.
Appearances: 1 (1) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Nick Hegarty: Lively and skilful winger who impressed during two games under Billy McEwan before his loan spell from Grimsby was cut short by injury. Has since signed a new contract with the League Two Mariners.
Appearances: 2 (0) Goals: 0 Rating: 7/10
Stephen Henderson: The young Bristol City goalkeeper, brought in on loan by Billy McEwan in September after Tom Evans’ disappointing start to the season. He was prone to the odd gaffe and not the finished article but boasted all the physical attributes to become a success between the sticks. Ended the season at Weymouth.
Appearances: 7 Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Joey Hutchinson: Defender who was employed as a makeshift midfielder early in the season with limited success after signing a short-term contract. Looked short of match fitness and was soon released.
Appearances: 2 (1) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Carl Jones: Began the season on a short-term contract as Billy McEwan struggled to sign a centre-back partner for David McGurk. Held his own on his debut against Cambridge but looked out of depth in the 4-3 defeat at Burton and never played for the club again.
Appearances: 2 Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Darren Kelly: Will be determined to prove his worth to the club next season after a mixed campaign following his August arrival for a transfer fee from Derry City. Struggled early on and looked sluggish at times but began to find his feet in Walker’s three-man defence before two injuries curtailed his progress again.
Appearances: 31 (2) Goals: 2 Rating 6/10
Anthony Lloyd: Once more proved his worth as squad cover. Guaranteed to give 100 per cent effort but lacking in quality on the ball and physical presence. Released at the end of the season for the second successive summer.
Appearances: 19 (5) Goals: 1 Rating: 6/10
Daniel McBreen: The on-loan Australian forward would have been a great acquisition had Championship club Scunthorpe not recalled him after only a month at KitKat Crescent. Dangerous in the air but equally as comfortable on the floor and adept at holding the ball up and bringing his team-mates into play. Scored two goals for City and, more recently, found the net in the Scottish Cup semi-final for new club St Johnstone against quadruple-seeking Rangers.
Appearances: 5 Goals: 2 Rating: 7/10
David McGurk: After a wobbly start to the season, recovered the form that has made him the club’s most consistent performer over the last three years. McGurk’s timing of tackles remains impeccable and he would be a popular choice as skipper following the departure of Manny Panther. Certainly capable of leading by example although he will probably be looking to improve on his goal tally next season.
Appearances: 56 Goals: 1 Rating: 8/10
Andy McWilliams: The youth-team left-back made an assured step up to senior duty at the end of the season. Played with admirable maturity for an 18-year-old and very level-headed in his play. Happy defending and going forward, looks a real find at this early stage.
Appearances: 4 (1) Goals 0 Rating: 7/10
Alex Meechan: Scored the winning goal against former club Halifax back in September but that proved the highlight of an otherwise fruitless short stay at KitKat Crescent. Peripheral when on the pitch and failed to impose himself on the flanks before being released.
Appearances: 3 (4) Goals: 1 Rating: 5/10
Josh Mimms: Struggled in his first two games for the club, shipping nine goals. Looked more confident when recalled against Oxford United. Has shown a susceptibility in the air but, at 18, could be one for the future.
Appearances: 3 (1) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Manny Panther: Frustrating season from the club captain. On his day, rampaging forward with the ball, he is one of the most unplayable midfielders in the Blue Square Premier. Sadly, those occasions became increasingly more sporadic during 2007/2008, which led to his exit from the club. If he plays to his strengths and works on his weaknesses he could still be a strong asset to his next employers.
Appearances: 45 (5) Goals: 1 Rating: 5/10
Danny Parslow: In danger of becoming the club’s forgotten man under Billy McEwan, Parslow has started every game under Colin Walker. The Welsh non-League international has been fully-committed and combative in every game he has played. Possesses a great attitude and also contributed two headers from set-pieces at the other end of the pitch.
Appearances: 39 (1) Goals: 2 Rating: 7/10
Ben Purkiss: Composed and cultured on the ball, Purkiss has become one of the first names on Colin Walker’s team-sheet. His distribution is impressive with diagonal cross field passes a speciality. Sometimes appears to be playing in second gear though and could be a little more aggressive.
Appearances: 42 (4) Goals: 0 Rating: 7/10
Alex Rhodes: A willing runner when given his first-team opportunities but well behind the likes of fellow youngsters Brodie and Sodje in the pecking order for starting places up front. Spent most of the season on loan to Bridlington and Whitby and no surprise when he did not make the retained list.
Appearances: 0 (2) Goals: 0 Rating: 5/10
Mark Robinson: Had a torrid start to the season but Colin Walker’s shift to a 3-5-2 formation made good use of his dangerous left foot down the flank with the added security of a third centre-back covering behind him. Made an impressive, swift recovery from a broken leg but faces a fight with the quicker McWilliams for his place next season.
Appearances: 31 (3) Goals: 2 Rating: 6/10
Simon Rusk: Enjoyed an excellent debut at right-wing back against Aldershot but, since then, has been in and out of the City midfield due to being cup-tied and suspended. Yet to make a major impact but is enthusiastic and will benefit from a full pre-season with the club.
Appearances: 10 (4) Goals: 0 Rating: 6/10
Liam Shepherd: The teenage winger might need to bulk up a little if he is to become a Blue Square Premier player level but has displayed pace, poise, purpose and a trick or two during his cameo outings.
Appearances: 0 (4) Goals: 0
Onome Sodje: The explosive runs behind opposition defences, which characterised his exciting early-season form, became less common during the closing months of the season. Still aged only 19 though, and 17 goals is a decent return for a player left out of the starting line-up more than 20 times this season. Loves to score goals and, if he can work on his awareness and develop a cunning streak, he could be an even greater threat.
Appearances: 36 (19) Goals: 17 Rating: 7/10
Phil Turnbull: Failed to convince Colin Walker he was a worthy midfield contender after returning from a six-month injury lay-off having dislocated his shoulder in a pre-season game at Frickley Athletic. A willing recipient and distributer of the ball during his three subsequent outings but he was released and joined Gateshead soon after his comeback.
Appearances: 1 (2) Goals: 0 Rating: 6/10
Martyn Woolford: The former Frickley Athletic winger has illustrated his flexibility under Colin Walker, playing as an out-and-out striker and in a free role behind the front two, as well as operating on the left and right flanks. He has proven equally as dangerous at times in all four positions and his tally of 17 goals and 19 assists can only have lengthened the growing list of Football League admirers, said to include Crewe Alexandra. A worthy winner of the Press Player of the Year award.
Appearances: 56 (1) Goals: 17 Rating: 8/10
Nicky Wroe: Responded well to the responsibility of becoming a first-team regular under Colin Walker in the New Year before injury ended his season prematurely. Reached double figures in goals from midfield and looked confident after assuming penalty duties from Craig Farrell before missing the second of two spot-kicks awarded against Stevenage. Assured in possession, his next challenge will be to dominate games for a full 90 minutes from City’s engine room.
Appearances: 27 (13) Goals: 10 Rating: 7/10
Stats and facts
* The average home league attendance of 2,258 is the third lowest in the club’s history. In 1977/78, the figure was 2,139 and in 1980/81 it was 2,162 – in both these seasons City finished in the bottom four of Division Four.
* For the second successive season City won more away games than at home. Previous to that, City had only done this twice before – 1946/47 and 1998/99. The total of 38 away goals has only twice been bettered (49 in 1954/55 and 41 in 1955/56).
* City completed League doubles over Droylsden, Farsley Celtic, Grays Athletic, Stafford Rangers and Weymouth, while Cambridge United, Histon, Salisbury City and Stevenage Borough beat City twice.
* City had only ten clean sheets in the League compared with 20 in 2006/7.
* 36 players were used in League and Cup football as opposed to 28 the previous campaign. David McGurk was ever-present in the League, but Martyn Woolford appeared in all City’s 57 games, only failing to start one match.
* City played in 11 cup games, only exceeded in 1984/85 when they figured in 14 ties and in 1985/86 when they totalled 13.
* They netted 23 cup goals, only bettered in 1984/85 when they scored 25 times.
Compiled by David Batters
Press Player of the Year final standings: Woolford 46 points, McGurk 44, Elliott 26, Purkiss 22, Parslow 21, Sodje 21, Panther 19, Robinson 19, Brodie 17, Craddock 16, Kelly 14, Wroe 14, Farrell 12, Evans 10, Brayson 9, McBreen 7, Lloyd 6, Hegarty 4, McWilliams 4, Fortune-West 3, Beadle 5, Rusk 2, Jones 1.
Press Player of the Month for April final standings: Woolford 13, McWilliams 9, Beadle 6, Craddock 6, Elliott 6, McGurk 5, Brodie 4, Fortune-West 3, Sodje 3, Robinson 3, Evans 2, Parslow 2, Wroe 2.
Goals: Sodje 17, Woolford 17, Farrell 14, Brodie 13, Wroe 10, Brayson 5, Elliott 3, Fortune-West 2, Kelly 2, McBreen 2, own goal 2, Parslow 2, Robinson 2, Lloyd 1, McGurk 1, Panther 1.
Assists: Woolford 19, Brodie 11, Sodje 11, Wroe 9, Panther 8, Brayson 6, Elliott 5, Farrell 5, Purkiss 5, Fortune-West 4, McBreen 3, Robinson 2, Beardsley 1, Craddock 2, Fry 1, Greenwood 1, Rusk 1.
Bad boys: Elliott 2 red, 9 yellow; McGurk 8 yellow; Brodie 1 red, 6 yellow, Craddock 1 red, 6 yellow; Panther 4 yellow; Robinson 1 red, 2 yellow; Kelly 3 yellow, Rusk 3 yellow; Beadle 2 yellow, Brayson 2 yellow, Parslow 2 yellow, Sodje 2 yellow, Wroe 2 yellow; Evans 1 red; Beardsley 1 yellow, Fortune-West 1 yellow, Greenwood 1 yellow, Lloyd 1 yellow, Purkiss 1 yellow, Woolford 1 yellow.
Our view at YCS:
Who – Sam Duncum?
What – 5 players each scoring double figures let down by a leaky defence
When – Farsley (a) – how the mighty have fallen
Where – Going nowhere, hopes had been high after reaching the play offs the previous season
Why – Leo Fortune West
Sulk Of The Season – Nick Wroe – signs new contract and then buggers off
Sulk Of The Season (2) – Manny Panther – wouldn’t sign new contact and buggered off
Lord Lucan Player Of The Year – Ross Grenwood / Phil Turnbull (shared award)