Date: 1st November 2017 at 2:07pm
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Turning the clock back to January 1979 and York City visiting League champions Nottingham Forest for an FA Cup fourth round tie.

Turning the clock back to January 1979 and York City visiting League champions Nottingham Forest for an FA Cup fourth round tie.

Gallant York City always fought their hardest against one of the finest teams in Europe, and even had the audacity to snatch a late consolation goal at a deeply frozen City Ground.

Arctic conditions had threatened the game even taking place, but it was one of the few fixtures to survive the severe wintry weather; although hopes that the slippy, snow-covered playing surface – the hosts had decided to simply roll it rather than remove the snow – would prove something of a leveller were comfortably wide of the mark.

The gap between the respective clubs could in fact hardly have been much greater, with the legendary Brian Clough’s outstanding charges already the reigning League champions and also into the quarter-finals of the European Cup.

In contrast, modest York were some eighty places below them in the footballing ladder, struggling towards the lower reaches of Division Four under the management of former Scottish goalkeeper Charlie Wright.

Forest included eight internationals within their starting line-up, most notably Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, Martin O’Neill, Archie Gemmill, Tony Woodcock and John Robertson, although it was one-time carpet-fitter with non-league Long Eaton United, Garry Birtles, missing their first opportunity.

But the opening strike duly arrived on fifteen minutes as Northern Ireland winger O’Neill delivered the ball into the path of Larry Lloyd, and the tough, uncompromising centre-back thumped an unstoppable 30-yard finish into the top corner.

York goalkeeper Graham Brown soon denied a Birtles header, and Scottish playmaker Gemmill then crossed for O’Neill to be thwarted as Andy Clements and Jimmy Walsh managed to scramble the loose ball away from the line.

Home centre-forward Birtles next nodded onto the top of the crossbar, before both he and O’Neill produced further action for the heroically defiant Brown.

However, the Matlock-born 34-year-old keeper, who had joined City from Portland Timbers the previous summer, could do nothing as John McGovern cracked in a second goal on the stroke of half-time after a Robertson cross was initially headed out.

The visitors hadn’t managed to really create anything during the opening forty-five minutes. But winger Gary Ford shot too high from an angle straight after the break, while Brown only just clawed away Lloyd’s goalbound header at the opposite end.

England striker Woodcock then saw an effort ruled out just beyond the hour, until his progressive interplay with Gemmill witnessed O’Neill drilling low past Brown with just under twenty minutes remaining.

Valiant York finally had their moment of glory on 82 minutes following a sweeping move beginning on the edge of their own box. It finished with Gordon Staniforth breaking towards the area and allowing Ford to poke across from the left towards the far post, where veteran striker Kevin Randall attempted to force the ball in.

But it instead dropped for diminutive substitute Barry Wellings to easily side-foot past legendary England goalkeeper Shilton, and offer a little welcome warmth to the always terrific York followers.

City manager Wright later admitted to getting it badly wrong in the first-half, when his players’ use of a short stud had them regularly struggling to even retain their balance: “We were caught out with the wrong boots but we did a lot better in the second-half after changing at the interval,” he confessed. “I would have loved to have seen how we shaped up on a normal surface against Forest. In some ways it was a moral victory that they only scored three against us.”

Nottingham Foret: Shilton, Anderson, Bowyer, McGovern, Lloyd, Burns, O’Neill, Gemmill, Birtles, Woodcock, Robertson

sub (unused): O’Hare

Goals: Lloyd (15), McGovern (45), O’Neill (72)

York City: Brown, Kay, Walsh, Pugh, Faulkner, Clements, Ford, Randall, Loggie (Wellings 68), McDonald, Staniforth

Goals: Wellings (82)

Ref: C. Seal (Carlisle)

Att: 25,228

Video Link: Nottingham Forest DVDs