Match of the Weekend 4 – The Conference Playoff Final – York City 2 – 1 Luton Town

17 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 20, 2012  |     54

“We’re a Football League club, how good is that?” – Gary Mills’ reaction to York City’s return to the league was typically unshowy, embodying the calm, quiet way the Minstermen have gone about their season.

There were no tears, no whoops of delight and not much in the way of a wild celebration, just an acknowledgement of how much it means for the club to win.

It is almost ironic that the only fuss York City have caused this season came in the form of Matty Blair’s winning goal, which looked at least a yard offside.

Mills’ response to the goal:

“Was is offside? Who cares. It’s a goal and a huge goal. Mistakes happen all the time.”

After Andre Gray fired Luton ahead with barely two minutes on the clock things didn’t look great for York. Gray, signed from Hinckley United in the Conference North, was there to collect Robbie Willmot’s flick, with the crossbar helping the ball over the line.

Luton could’ve made it two with Alex Lawless and Adam Watkins both shooting wide. But with 15 minutes played the Minstermen began to take control. Top scorer Jason Walker tested Luton keeper Mark Tyler with a rasping shot, Tyler stretching to tip the ball over the bar.

Their equaliser came when York took advantage of some lazy Luton defending, Chris Smith darting back and looping a cross into the box for Ashley Chambers to smash into the back of the net.

After the break York didn’t waste time, Matty Blair collecting the ball and flicking it past Tyler, the York striker appearing to be in plenty of space – but clearly offside.

Gray somehow failed to connect with the ball, clear on goal six yards out, with an air kick which will no doubt be in his nightmares for months to come.

Luton pushed in search of an equaliser, with manager Paul Buckle’s double substitution on the hour mark adding energy to the Hatters but York saw out the victory.

Outnumbered in the crowd of 39,265, the York fans were the loudest by the time of the final whistle, many of them on their second Sunday outing to Wembley in a row following last week’s FA Trophy final which saw Matty Blair score the winner against Newport County.

Going into the game without having lost to Luton this season York were still the underdogs, the team from up North weren’t bringing as many fans so perhaps they didn’t want it as much.

But Mills told The Press: “We know where we go if we win. It puts a lot of things to bed, a lot of things that have gone on over the years at York City Football Club.

“They are going to be gone. We know what it means. We know what it is going to take.”

Understated, but determined, York came back from a goal down to spoil the afternoon for around 30,000 Luton fans. Having reached the play-offs in 2007 and 2010 and falling at the final hurdle, York fans had seen the chance of league football fall away before their eyes before but how sweet to do it off the back of a Trophy final victory the week before too, the club’s first piece of silverware in almost 20 years.

In January I wrote in the Grimsby Town programme about how York were settling into the top six without the drama of the clubs around them and in this vein they continued; look at the manager changes at Wrexham and Luton, Mansfield’s only recently solved ground issues (not to mention the arrest of their CEO at the play-off tie against York) and contrast that with York. The only time the Minstermen generated a bit of non-football publicity was when one of Matty Blair’s teammates kidnapped his statue of a dog, set up a twitter account (@blairys_dog) and began tweeting pictures of the ‘hostage’ from all over the country.

Mills, the fifth York manager in the seven years the club has been in the Conference, assembled a solid squad, perhaps lacking the stand out names of Luton and the depth of Wrexham but a squad of experienced players nonetheless. Their top scorer this season, Jason Walker (signed from Luton) may have only netted 18 but three other players (Jamie Reed, Patrick McLaughlin and Blair) have netted 10 in the league. Results have been consistent, grinding out victories and dropping few points – by the end of the season York has still conceded fewer goals than all-conquering Fleetwood.

Looking to the future, plans for a new stadium were approved earlier this month – taking York away from Bootham Crescent to a new site at Monks Cross. The club look set to remain at the ground once known as Kitkat Crescent for another couple of years while the new ground, which includes a small retail park is built.

Next season, back in the Football League, expect Mills to go about his business as he has done in the Conference. Let Fleetwood take the headlines as the brash new kids in the league, but don’t be surprised when York quietly get on with it too, just don’t expect them to shout it too loudly.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm


    Bit of a strange point to suggest bringing less fans meant maybe we didn’t want it as much. For a start, we don’t have as many fans as Luton, we know this. Also the cost of 2 trips there in a week is beyond most people. Lest we forget, when the final was in Manchester last year, Luton only took about 8,000. After 8 seasons in the Conference (not 7!), trust me, we wanted this more than anything!

    Must also point out that Walker “only netted 18″ mainly due to spending several months out injured. This was the first time in our history that 5 players made it into double figures (Chambers’s equaliser today was his 10th of the season), so definitely one of the keys to our success.

    Hopefully the Mariners will be repatriated into the League soon as possible as well!

  • May 21, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Micky F

    “Was is offside? Who cares. It’s a goal and a huge goal. Mistakes happen all the time.”

    I guess it’s easy to be so blase about a shocking decision when you are the beneficiary rather than the victim. Especially when that decision has got you back into the league and is worth thousands of pounds to your club. I’d like to wish York every success for next season. By “every success” I mean “I hope they finish bottom”. Sour Grapes? Absobloodylutely!

  • May 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Dermot O'Dreary

    “Was is offside? Who cares. It’s a goal and a huge goal. Mistakes happen all the time.”

    Yeah – thanks for that Gary, looking forward to the time you concede a blatantly offside goal (maybe the one that relegates you next season?) and see how sanguine you are about it then.

    And if that sounds like sour grapes, maybe when you’ve had two play-off finals in two years where crucial decisions have gone against you, in a league you’ve been dumped in to assuage the guilt of the footballing authorities about the finanical crimes going on at virtually every club, perhaps you can understand why we’re not feeling desperately generous towards you and your club.

  • May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm


    O’Dreary – how would you react if it were Buckle commenting on the winning Luton goal? A light hearted quip born of elation and adrenaline after redemption for long-suffering fans?

    We all know how Luton ended up in the Conference; have you ever investigated how York did? Read up on Douglas Craig and his directors selling the ground from the club to themselves in order to sell it on to housing developers, John Batchelor running the club into the ground whilst taking enough money out of it to buy himself a house, and other such mismanagement.

    The result of all this was the sacking of a good manager for no other reason than we could not afford to pay him, appointing a 27-year-old centre half as manager – none of the players being paid at this point – and ending the season with 2 draws and 18 defeats to finish bottom of the League.

    We’ve seen our club fall through the divisions due to factors entirely outside the control of the supporters, lost a play off semi final and a final before now, had a season where we only avoided relegation to the Conference North by a handful of points, so we rather feel that a bit of fortune is long overdue.

  • May 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Ian H

    Unfrotunately people make mistakes. Yes, the Assistant referee made a mistake. However so did Andre Gray, the air shot when it seemed a goal was on the cards. These things happen.
    And anyway, those of us with a long memory will say Luton Town deserve everything they get after the antics of one David Evans. I am one of them.

  • May 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm


    No doubt it was a crappy goal to win a match with, especially one of such importance, but taking the match as a whole, we had a massive shout for a penalty with the handball in the first half, as well as Walker being denied a clear goalscoring opportunity when he was flagged offside when he was onside by about as much as the goal was off. Mills’s comment is flippant and a bit tasteless, I agree, but as the old cliche goes, these things even themselves out one way or another.

    Even looking over the course of the season (or even the last few), we’ve dominated the results against you (and got more points this year), our only defeat in recent times being when we played most of the game with outfield players in goal, so while I’m sorry we won the game with that goal, I still feel we deserve it.

    And don’t forget you’re not the only team to have suffered – we ended up in this horrible league after being taken to the brink of bankruptcy by 2 dodgy owners, and have also had 2 play-off defeats, so we know all too well what it’s like. You just have to pick yourselves up and try again next time, like we’ve had to do for the last 8 years down here. I know it’s easy to say from our position, but I genuinely wish you the best of luck for next season – like is happening to us now, it’s about time things started going right for you guys for a change.

  • May 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Dermot O'Dreary

    Fair do’s Jobil.

  • May 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm


    Well, the winning goal WAS at least a yard offside, so it was a shocking decision. Having said that, York were a very good side and, as a neutral, I thought they deserved the win. The Luton support was phenominal and I hope they can finally achieve promotion next season.

  • May 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Dermot O'Dreary

    A couple of points if I may:

    Ian H – David Evans hasn’t had any involvement since 1989, seems a bit much to keep going along those lines. Just out of interest, I assume that, for instance, you have an intense dislike of Oxford and Derby because of the Maxwell involvement? In any case, many of the problems at the club since 1989 can be traced back to Evans so it’s not as if we haven’t paid many times over for his reign.

    Barrick – yes, I’m well aware of the issues thank you and to an extent don’t begrudge you your glory day. You’ll have to forgive me though for not getting too carried away – we’ve developed something of a f*** everyone else mentality because, when it comes to it, most other clubs and their supporters were happy to turn a blind eye in 2008 and 2009, so we expect nothing from anyone any more.

  • May 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Ian H

    My dislike for Luton does go back a long way without a doubt. However, Evans was an obnoxious man who stuck 2 fingers up to everyone else. The fact luton had an artificial pitch AND banned away fans undoubtedly gave them and advantage. I also recall the majority of Luton fans fully supported Evans – so as far as I am concerned any bad luck on Luton is not met with much sympathy.

  • May 31, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Micky F

    Which team do you support Ian H? I’m sure I could think up some petty reason to dislike them based on something that happened over 20 years ago!

    Evans was undoubtably an obnoxious man but if you hated every club who had an obnoxious owner in the past you’d be hating a hell of a lot of clubs. How many clubs have the likes of Ken Bates, Ron Noades, Stephen Vaughan etc. been involved with in the past? The majority of Luton fans may have supported the away fans ban at first but that was probably a result of seeing our ground smashed up by Millwall on that infamous night in 1985. As for the plastic pitch I believe QPR, Oldham & Preston all had artificial pitches at the same time, are you still carrying a grudge against all of them too?

  • May 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm


    Ian H – No we didn’t. We knew what he was and that there would be a bill at the end of it. Just so you know, when Evans left Luton he repaid his “investment” in our club plus `18 percent by selling our ground. We’re where we are now largely because he took his pound of flesh after dragging our name through the mud. Seriously mate, hating a club because you don’t like the owner is ridiculous. Whoever you support had to put up with him for two games a year. We had to tolerate him for 6 seasons. My guess is that you’re an embittered liverpool fan..

  • June 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Ian H

    Definately not a Liverpool fan – that is a huge insult!! I dont support any top flight side.
    I fully understand Luton fans being scarred after the Millwall match, i recall it well, and I was horrendous. However, I have been to Kenilworth Road a few times and it is fair to say that Luton, like any club has it’s share of problem followers.
    My main issue is Evans. I always associate Luton Town with him. He always seemed to think he could do whatever he wanted mainly through him being one of Maggies boys. I also recall him speaking soon after Hillsborough, when he spoke in very disrespectfull terms and clearly not in possession of the facts. His comments caused outrage and upset in his audience.
    I fully appreciate many clubs owners are less than pleasant – you could have added George Reynolds and Winkleman to that list.

  • June 7, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Micky F

    Ian H, you may associate Luton Town with David Evans but we certainly don’t – he was our chairman for 6 years of our 125 year history and I’d say about 95% of Luton fans don’t have much affection for him despite winning the League Cup during his chairmanship. As Jim pointed out his demands led to us selling our ground which is the root of all the problems we’ve had in the past 20 years. He certainly used the club as a tool to curry favour with Thatcher and further his political career at the expense of Luton’s reputation with other supporters . He’s been dead for a few years now so maybe it’s time to move on, after all there’s a club 20 miles up the M1 from Luton which is far more deserving of your contempt.

  • June 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Ian H

    Folks; Fair play in relation to your responses. I have always been under the misapprehension that Evans was loved by Luton fans even today. I stand corrected on that one. I was also unaware he was dead.
    My contempt for that lot up the M1 holds literally no bounds whatsoever – believe me!!
    I guess I need to eat huge portions of humble pie in relation to my dislike of Luton Town Fc – and to be fair I thought it ludicrous when the FL docked you 35 points. That was just an unfair playing field.
    However, to be accused of being a Liverpool fan…There was no call for that!!

  • June 9, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Micky F

    Ian H, credit to you for listening to what we had to say about Evans and re-appraising your view of Luton Town. I think Jim thought you might be a Red Scouser on account of your dislike of our plastic pitch, this was something Kenny Dalglish never failed to complain about whenever Liverpool were beaten at Kenilworth Road back in the 80’s.

  • June 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Ian H

    Kenny Dalglish complaining when liverpool lost? Surely not?
    At least some things never change!
    as another aside, I would have no complaints if Luton were to return to the football league, on the basis that league 2 and the Blue Square prem seem a little disjointed currently. It seems crazy that the likes of Luton, Wrexham, Stockport etc carry such huge fanbases compared to the likes of Accrington, Morecambe etc.
    I cant see past Luton for BSP next season, (Kiss of death if ever there wass one). It is difficult to even think who will make the play offs. Mansfield maybe, Wrexham. After that, who knows.

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