League Two relegation strugglers meet at Bootham Crescent today
30 January ~ Over the years Stevenage and York have been connected by the East Coast Main Line but little else. One is a thousand-year-old former Viking capital, the other recently celebrated the arrival of its first town centre H&M. York are League football veterans who reached the Second Division during the 1970s – the same period Stevenage Borough played on a roped off pitch in King Georges Park.
Now both share the creeping fear of impending relegation out of the Football League, if nothing else, and meet at the weekend looking for wins to lift them out of the ooze that sucks the League Two weaklings into the National League.
For Stevenage at least it wasn’t meant to be like this. It was at Bootham Crescent last season that Tom Pett, fresh from banging them in in the Ismthian Premier and, from the looks of his face, primary school, roofed one in from 35 yards, winning Stevenage the game and igniting a muscular surge towards the play-offs. Now a win on the same ground would be notable not for extending an unbeaten run but for possibly propelling them 11 points clear of the drop.
York were as grim as the weather on that day and someone (it may have even been me) was heard to loudly declare that, on the basis of that performance, the Minstermen were “definitely down”. Naturally they survived but the reprieve of that escape looks to have been momentary at best. They sit stone bottom having won once in the last 20 league games.
So then, a lot at stake. Especially for Stevenage manager Teddy Sheringham who replaced Graham Westley last summer. On arrival Sheringham said that he wanted to “win some football matches” (good plan, Ted) and has since managed to do so six times in the league. Despite this stat it’s not been all bad. Sheringham definitely brings a crumpled glamour to the suburbs through both his suspiciously youthful appearance and a slightly more expansive playing style than his predecessor – but that increased attacking intent has come paired with some suicidal defending.
It was no surprise that central-defensive pair Mark Hughes, who was ignominiously subbed in the first half against Dagenham & Redbridge just before New Year, and Jamie McCombe, who was absolutely rubbish, have been let go in this transfer window. Improving an atrocious defensive record is now a task entrusted to a back four made up of three ex-Luton players (Fraser Franks, new arrival Luke Wilkinson and club captain Ronnie Henry) and a promising on loan youngster Connor Ogilvie.
After an uninspiring but at least coherent 0-0 draw with Barnet last week this game looks set to be another opportunity for Stevenage to display a steeliness sorely absent before Christmas. Whether they have the chemistry in the massed ranks of loanees and crumbling old pros that currently constitutes their midfield and attack to win the game is another matter. This offensive stodginess is deepened by the long-term absence of the superb winger Ben Kennedy, a youth teamer set for big things.
For York a win is almost essential but to attain one they’ll have to score. They’ve actually conceded fewer goals than Stevenage (who “lead” the league having shipped 50 since august) but have scored ten less in the same period. It might be that on a claggy, recently flooded pitch a blunt attack and a woeful defence take a few weary pot shots at each other and settle for a draw. Jake Farrell @jfarrellwords