Football: Stockport kept on an even keel by Keeley

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The Independent Online
York City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

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A GOALLESS draw in the first leg of the play-offs is always a fair bet. Players who spent the previous afternoon watching the FA Cup final are reluctant to throw away their own chance of reaching Wembley by stumbling at the first hurdle.

Yet these two sides created enough chances to run up a tennis score, and only the efforts of the sound-alike goalkeepers - York's Dean Kiely and Stockport's John Keeley - ensured a clean scoresheet as they and their colleagues disappeared beneath the mud.

After 24 hours of incessant rain, the twin towers of York Minster looked down on a Bootham Crescent better suited to water polo, but if the conditions did not lend themselves to football to match their First Division ambitions, the sides made up for it in commitment.

York, attempting to win promotion by the play-off route for the second consecutive season, had enough opportunities in the first half to set them comfortably on their way.

Stockport began with five at the back but had not brought along sufficient oil for an offside trap of that size. Ian Blackstone and Paul Barnes both sprang it easily, only to put good chances wide.

Keeley made a fine one-handed stop from Tony Canham's header and then saved twice in as many seconds from Barnes and Blackstone.

But Stockport grew more adventurous as the game progressed and it was Kiely's turn to shine, saving athletically from Jim Gannon, Chris Beaumont and Peter Ward. And on the only occasion he was beaten, Wayne Hall was on the line to head away Mike Flynn's goal- bound header.

York's passing game, although it frequently became bogged down on the waterlogged surface, would not disgrace a higher league, but Stockport's growing confidence, and the prospect of home advantage on Wednesday, must make them favourites to get those other twin towers in their sights.

York City (4-4-2): Kiely; McMillan, Tutill, Stancliffe, W Hall; McCarthy, Swann, Bushell, Canham; Barnes, Blackstone (Cooper, 72). Substitutes not used: Atkin, Warrington (gk).

Stockport County (5-3-2): Keeley; Todd, Flynn, Williams, Connelly, Wallace; Gannon, Frain, Ward; Francis, Beaumont. Substitutes not used: Miller, Preece, Ironside (gk).

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).

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