York City survived everything that monster known as the M6 could throw at them yesterday, but when it came to taking on a comparative footballing behemoth the Minstermen's dream FA Cup journey inevitably broke down. The Conference side held the lead, but in terms of being short-lived it was pitifully embryonic. Within two more minutes Stoke were 2-1 up and so the prospect of non-Leaguers knocking out Premier League opposition for the first time was gone for another day.
However, this will be an experience York will never forget; both for their courageous deeds on the pitch and the bizarre events off it. Having set off from Bootham Crescent far too late at 10.15am, the team coach ran into snow-ridden carnage on the motorways and eventually arrived at 3pm. By then, the kick-off had been put back half-an-hour and their manager, Martin Foyle, had been pacing the corridors. As a former Port Vale stalwart, Foyle lives near the Britannia Stadium. "The club left ample time to get here but everything went against us," he said, clearly fearful of a FA fine. "People say we should have made an overnight stay but that was never on the agenda. I don't want to use the lack of preparation as an excuse. On the bright side the players, didn't have time to think about Stoke City."
Their travails all seemed worth it in the 22nd minute when Neil Barrett – who once played alongside John Terry in the Chelsea youth team – got to the near post first to steer in a Levi Mackin corner. Hitherto, York had easily been the equal of a club 83 places higher than them and their ecstatic celebrations were as warranted as they were to prove premature.
Was it two wonderful pieces of skill which did for them, a few touches of class which cruelly exposed the gap? Not unless you ascribe the Rory Delap long throw-in sublime status. But, blimey, is it effective. "Delap's throw-in is a fantastic asset which has contributed to many of Stoke's goals these last two seasons," said Foyle. "We defended it well when we tried to mimic it in training – but the trajectory is frightening. It's a missile that could keep Stoke in the Premier League again." Darren Parslow, the hapless York defender, turned Delap's first bomb into his own net and soon after Ricardo Fuller was at the far post to apply the necessaries to Leon Cort's flick across. York courageously pressed on and may even have forced an equaliser if Richard Brodie had not found the ball caught between his feet in a goalmouth mêlée.
Tony Pulis had shown his respect for the visitors by picking a strong XI and in the 58th minute, the first- teamer Matthew Etherington duly stepped forward to curl a sumptuous left-footer into the top right-hand corner and that was that – time for a rematch with the M6 and M62. For Stoke more attractive trips await.
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: Delap
Match rating: 6/10