York v Bristol Rovers: Gasheads on the up


Tom Lockyer – www.bristolrovers.co.uk

York City and Bristol Rovers will meet as two fourth tier clubs on Saturday but in four months’ time, there could be a division between them. York’s relegation was mathematically confirmed with a 3-0 defeat at Accrington Stanley on Saturday but it had been coming for a while. Issues behind the scenes have affected the harmony at York, yet another contributing factor is the lack of stability in the first team.

The defence, which has conceded 82 goals this season, is made up predominantly of inexperienced loanees. York’s only defender with a degree of knowhow is veteran Dave Winfield, who has shown some bravery and leadership qualities this season, though even he didn’t start at Accrington. The fact that Keith Lowe left mid-season for Kidderminster, bottom of the division below – albeit a club he had played for previously – represented a clear sign that all was not well.

The lack of leadership has culminated in an inability to defend leads, the Minstermen having dropped 28 points from winning positions. By contrast, Bristol Rovers have dropped just four points from 21 matches in which they scored the first goal, conceding only 12.

They were strong defensively in the National League last season and that is something they have taken into this campaign. Tom Lockyer has developed the physical side of his game over the last year and has been a reliable performer this term. Mark McChrystal has converted his critics with some no-nonsense displays since returning from injury in March. The key is, these defenders have been at the club for a long time and therefore been given the chance to build relationships and learn each other’s game.

The average Rovers defender that started in a 3-1 win over West Country rivals Exeter, had been at the Memorial Stadium for 3 and a half years. By contrast, the average York defender that played at Accrington had been at the club for less than one year. Josh Carson, an auxiliary left-back, had been at Bootham Crescent for three years while Luke Hendrie, Scot Bennett and Kyle Cameron have all joined in the last four months on short-term loan deals.

There is a lack of leadership and direction at York City, on and off the field and that is why they are going down. By contrast, Bristol Rovers have a stable squad, an exciting, passionate manager in Darrell Clarke and rich owners. Regardless of whether or not they go up this season, Wael Al-Qadi will be willing to invest in quality additions. A key task for the board this summer will be to persuade 28-goal workhorse Matty Taylor to stay, in the face of expected interest from above. It seems Bristol Rovers are bound to become a League One club with their current setup, missing out on promotion this season will only prolong the inevitable.