York City 0-1 Stockport County

A late goal from substitute Nyal Bell earned County a fifth straight victory on pre-season in a feisty affair during what is expected to be County’s final ever visit to Bootham Crescent.

The match, on the request of the home side, was kept private until the conclusion of the game for security reasons.

And in the end it was Bell who was to have County’s final say at this famous old stadium, scrambling the ball home from a corner late on to hand County a first victory at York since 1996.

Just three changes were made to Tuesday night’s demolition of Guiseley at Nethermoor Park, as Sam Minihan, Adam Thomas and Alex Reid all came in, with Macauley Southam-Hales, Jordan Keane and Connor Jennings dropping to the bench.

For the third game running manager Jim Gannon opted for a 3-4-3 formation, with Sam Minihan and Jordan Williams the wing-backs, hat-trick hero James Jennings moving across to centre-back, and a front three of Adam Thomas, Alex Reid and Richie Bennett.

Having scored after just two minutes against Guiseley on Tuesday, County were almost celebrating even earlier this afternoon in an extraordinary opening period, Bennett twice denied by the woodwork inside the opening minute.

Jordan Williams found some space inside the area and picked out the big striker, but Bennett’s close range effort rattled the underside of the crossbar and bounced away to safety, before seconds later the County striker glanced John Rooney’s in-swinging cross past the ‘keeper, but back off the far post.

County continued to press, and Bennett was presented with another good opportunity seven minutes in; a quick County counter-attack ending with John Rooney sending him scampering clear down the right-hand side but, despite switching the ball to his favoured left foot, his effort was smothered by the legs of Peter Jameson in the York goal.

Rooney at this point was puling all the strings in midfield, with another one of his long diagonal balls picking out the run of Williams down the left. The wing-back, looking for his first goal of pre-season, took a touch before smashing an effort towards the top corner, the ball just swerving over the bar.

Up the other end, and a familiar foe provided the first signs of danger from the hosts as Jake Cassidy, scorer of the winner for Maidenhead United against County on opening day last season, met Michael Duckworth’s cross at the near post but powered a header over the crossbar.

That chance looked to give the Minstermen a lift, however, as they gradually grew into the game before the break; Paddy Mclaughlin with a shot from distance that skimmed just wide of Ben Hinchliffe’s post, as the first-half ended goalless.

Half-time: York City 0-0 County

In stark contrast to the electric start to the first-half, the opening periods of the second were a rather more tepid affair in the sweltering Yorkshire sun, with both sides seeking to get a grip of the game.

An uncharacteristic slip at the back from James Jennings almost provided that crucial breakthrough for the hosts as he lost out under pressure from Cassidy, with the ball breaking for Harry Bunn on the edge of the area. Ash Palmer, in typical fashion, threw his body in the way of the shot; the ball deflecting up into the air and almost over the head of Hinchliffe, who reacted well to tip it over the bar.

Set-pieces continued to look the most likely route for the Hatters – and that so nearly proved to be the case on 70 minutes, Ash Palmer looking certain to score after meeting James Jennings corner on the volley, only for the ball to deflect wide of the post from point-blank range.

Rooney looked to provide some inspiration with a well struck free-kick from distance, but again Jameson was in the right place to hold on to it as the game.

Into the final ten minutes and suddenly County had a spring in their step, finishing the game as strongly as they started it, as Rooney saw a delicate backheel cleared off the line, before finally the Hatters found a way through.

Again it came from a John Rooney set-piece that York failed to clear, the ball ricocheting around the six-yard box before substitute Bell stuck out a leg to divert it home with just four minutes left on the clock.

It capped an impressive cameo appearance from Bell, and helped County continue their red hot form, with victory they just about deserved, on their final visit to Bootham Crescent.

Full-time: York City 0-1 County (Bell, 86’).

Team (3-4-3): Hinchliffe; Palmer; Hogan; J. Jennings; Minihan; Williams ( Keane, 74’); Maynard; Rooney; Thomas (C. Jennings, 55’); Reid (Kitching, 63’); Bennett (Bell, 58’).

Reporter: Liam Richardson

Photographer: Mike Petch

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