York City's manager Nigel Worthington arrived in March with the club in free-fall. Struggling against the plunge at first, four wins in five have kept them afloat. Chris Smith's winner against fellow survivors Dagenham and Redbridge confirmed the impact the former Northern Ireland manager has had.
For football fans it is easy to ignore what dropping from the Football League means when the dogfight at the bottom of the Premier League is so engaging, and a few would be forgiven for not caring. But the financial strain endured with dropping from the League is arguably worse than any fall.
League Two clubs receive around £650,000 from TV money and Premier League handouts each year. Losing that cash can be detrimental, and it is easy to go down and stay down. Eight years have passed since a side dropping out has bounced straight back, and only two promotion spaces can be snatched in the Conference, compared with four in League Two.
Worthington knows the trouble it could have caused. "It would have been a tremendous blow for everybody," he said.
"It's huge financially, you're talking in the region of a million pounds between the Football League and sponsorship money. Thankfully, here we are, and the chairman can plan forward."
A draw for York would have been enough, while anything but a win for Dagenham made them vulnerable. Everything to play for, and it showed. The hosts played most of the football, and the ever-present Brian Woodall hit the post with a wonderful a free-kick before the break.
Woodall then tested Michael Ingham from 25 yards, and from the resulting corner skied a glorious opening from six yards. But York went ahead through captain Smith, drilling under Jordan Seabright after confusion in the box. Ingham produced an outstanding double save at the other end to keep it level, but with perennial survivors Barnet losing at Northampton, Dagenham were safe on goal difference.
Daggers' manager Wayne Burnett was relegated as a player with Plymouth in 1995, and narrowly avoided it on three occasions with Grimsby. His relief at staying up showed.
"It's been the longest week of my life, I've had no sleep", he said. "I'm absolutely delighted to stay up, it's the target and the goal. But I felt we should have been safe long ago. Hopefully that won't happen again."
Worthington wants time before looking ahead, and refused to speculate on his future at the club.
"My remit was to help the team and keep them up and that's what we've done. It's best to let the dust settle and we'll go from there."
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): Seabright; Ogogo, Wilkinson, Doe, Ilesanmi; Elito (Reid, 75), Maher, Howell, Bingham; Scott, Woodall.
York (4-3-3): Ingham; Oyebanjo, Smith, McGurk, O'Connell; Platt, Parslow, Reed; Chambers, Walker (Reed, 86), Blair (Coulson, 78).
Referee Simon Hooper.
Where are they now?
More than a quarter of the 23 teams relegated from the Football League since 1986-87 went out of existence. Newport County, Darlington, Halifax Town, Scarborough, Chester City and Rushden & Diamonds have all reformed under new names but none has so far won League status.
Relegation to the Conference does not always spell disaster. Doncaster Rovers dropped out of the League in 1998 but have since climbed up the divisions and yesterday secured promotion to the Championship.
Colchester United's 10th place in the Championship in 2006-07 was the highest League finish of the 23. The Essex club have just completed their 21st consecutive season back in the Football League – the longest run of the relegated clubs.
Halifax Town became the first club to suffer the humiliation of a second relegation to the Conference in 2002 – the final season that only a single team dropped out. Four teams have since suffered second relegations: Lincoln City, Chester, Darlington and Barnet – who were relegated yesterday.
Only Lincoln of the 23 have survived as a club. Of the six that reformed under new names, Chester have been the most successful and will play in the Conference next year after securing their third straight promotion.
Aldershot will hope to bounce back at the first time of asking, thereby emulating Lincoln, Carlisle, Shrewsbury and Darlington, the only teams to have won immediate promotion back into the League.
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