York City blog: ‘The referee resembled a man who had won a competition to officiate a football match’

Josh Carson scores his first of the season and City's amazing comeback against Carlisle is complete. Photograph: OfficialCUFC / YouTube
25 Sep 2015 @ 8.46 pm
| Opinion, Sport

York City 2 Carlisle 2, September 19

24 mins: The Keith Lowe miss

“Shoooooot!”

It’s a cry heard in football grounds up and down the land, invariably when the ball finds its way to the feet of a player in acres of space and at just the right range to send a jaw-dropping missile into the top corner.

No doubt someone had bellowed such encouragement to Eddie Nolan before he unleashed his keeper-decapitating shot to open his York City account at Stevenage the previous week.

Fond memories of that day must have flooded back to his teammate and fellow defender Keith Lowe as he, unmarked and 30 yards from goal, found himself presented with a similarly mouth-watering opportunity early on against Carlisle United on Saturday.

As fun as it is, deep down we all know that we probably shouldn’t egg players on so, because 99 times out of 100 the ball ends up embedded in a spectator’s face, as Lowe ably demonstrated to the mass delight of home and away fans alike. It was funny at the time, but 60 seconds later no one was laughing.

25 mins: The Carlisle opener

That sinking feeling
That sinking feeling
From the resulting goal-kick Carlisle effortlessly sliced through City’s defence – all still chortling and re-organising themselves after their colleague’s wayward effort – to make it the score 1-0.

Poor Keith. A mixture of misguided enthusiasm and the crowd’s exhortations had persuaded him to pull the trigger, when a pass to a better placed teammate would have sufficed.

Now his name was accompanied by various dark curses by those around me in the Longhurst, and suddenly all of the world’s ills were attributed to our normally sensible and much-liked centre-back.

HT: The crowd not happy

At half-time, with City now 2-0 down following a horrendous game of pinball in our box, a man behind me in the burger queue caught me looking at the National League scores on my phone.

“Why are you checking Conference scores?” he asked, looking visibly hurt that anyone would do such a thing. I explained that, as a football fan, I take an interest all leagues, not just our own.

“Checking out the opposition for next season, more like.”

Well honestly! Anyone would have thought this was the last game of the season with City staring into the abyss of Non-League football à la 2004, not mid September with the season barely ten matches old, a fact I reminded him of.

Flying the flag from the Longhurst. Photograph: Lawrence Edmonds
Flying the flag from the Longhurst. Photograph: Lawrence Edmonds

I also took the opportunity to tell him that City always play better in the second half and not to rule out a comeback.

He was having none of it, however. “And on today of all days. These players are a disgrace,” he choked, making reference to the deeply moving one minute pre-match applause in tribute to former City player David Longhurst, who passed away on the Bootham Crescent pitch 25-years-ago this month.

Compared to the events of that tragic day, a man standing nearby pointed out, being 2-0 down in a football match was of little consequence. This prompted a nod of agreement from all within earshot.

50 mins: The baffling red card

Vadaine Oliver is off. And even the Carlisle players look bemused
Vadaine Oliver is off. And even the Carlisle players look bemused

Striker Vadaine Oliver’s sending off early in the second half did little to support my positive outlook. It was one of the strangest dismissals I have ever witnessed.

Rather than the usual mixture of indignant roars and exultant jeers, the sight of red instead prompted an eerie silence, with players and supporters of both sides looking at each other in confusion.

No one knew what the referee (who at times resembled a man who had won a competition to officiate a football match, despite having only a rough grasp of the rules) had seen, but clearly it had been blood curdling enough to have him reaching for his pocket and brandishing it with apparent glee.

71 mins: The Summerfield penalty

Cooly foot Luke
Cooly foot Luke

Had he not awarded City the penalty from which Luke Summerfield reduced the deficit 20 minutes later, it’s likely he would have been swinging in a cage from the walls of Clifford’s Tower come 5pm. All was forgotten as our inspirational no. 8 expertly converted his third of the season.

Summerfield is quickly becoming City’s go-to man and, dare I say it, is beginning to outshine captain and fans’ favourite, Russell Penn. Following a stuttering start at the Crescent last season, Summerfield is now the man most likely to turn a game on its head with his seemingly boundless energy and eye for goal.

Following his own wonder-strike at Stevenage (named Goal of the Week, no less) there were further cries of “SHOOOOOT!” whenever he came into possession, be it while on the attack or inside his own six-yard box.

Given the horrors that were unleashed when Lowe had bent to the will of the fans in the first half, I couldn’t help but pray that the stewards would descend with chloroform-soaked flannels to silence these spokesmen of bad advice.

73 mins: The Carson equaliser

Thankfully by this point Josh Carson had entered the fray. Quite why the young Irishman has been consistently overlooked by Russ Wilcox is a mystery to many City fans, whose team have lacked a creative spark (Summerfield aside) and serious threat from the wings so far this term.

Carson’s introduction with 20 minutes remaining did much to warm the heart, therefore, and his instinctive, poacher’s finish (following a sterling effort from fellow sub Emile Sinclair to not only keep the ball in play but to hook it Carsonwards) only two minutes after the penalty justified many fans’ grumblings in truly joyous fashion.

Did York really only have ten men on the pitch? It was easy to forget so, such was the energy and willingness to pour forward and test the now creaking Carlisle defence.

Somehow though, a victory seemed unlikely, as if the team had spent its energy with two goals in such quick succession. Summerfield’s late, curling free-kick could have changed all that had it not been for a fine save from their keeper, who altered his dive in the nick of time to push to the ball around the post, the swine.

FT: The slight taste of victory

Last season there were several mystifying examples of City fans treating a draw (of which there were a staggering 19) like a victory, such as the engaging but largely fruitless 0-0 battle with Plymouth in early January.

On each occasion, opposition fans and players were utterly bemused by our hysterical response to picking up one point when three had been within easy reach. This share of the spoils with Carlisle, however, was worthy of the ‘felt like a win’ title, as Wilcox would later dub it to the press.

Overcoming adversity and perceived injustice will always carry a slight taste of victory, I reasoned while filing out of the ground in a content state of mind. It was a draw, but one to be proud of.

If anything, it was a relief not to have another weekend ruined by a York City defeat, or feel the guilt of having dragged along a friend again (as I had for the Hartlepool and Mansfield gamed) only to subject them to a truly depressing afternoon of turgid action.

Such is the power of football to shape one’s outlook on the world.