Goals from Lenell John-Lewis and Maz Kouhyar secured promotion to the National League for York City, as they saw off Boston United 2-0 in a scrappy National League North playoff final at the LNER Community Stadium. 

By Amos Murphy

Minstermen return to fifth tier after playoff victory over Boston

York City will once again be playing fifth tier football as of next season, as the Yorkshire-based outfit saw off an uninspiring Boston United side to end a five-year hiatus from the fifth tier.

Netting five minutes into the match and then again five minutes before the end, goals from Lenell John-Lewis and Maz Kouhyar secured promotion for the Minstermen, whose turbulent season in the National League North ends in promotion.

Tucking a right-footed strike into the bottom corner with the home side's first attack, John-Lewis continued his profilic scoring form in the playoffs to set York on their way. Exactly 80 minutes after taking the lead, the Minstermen eventually found their second, with Kouhyar squeezing home to secure the victory late on.

As low as 15th earlier in the campaign, not even the most ambitous of York supporters could've imagined the season ending in promotion, as John Askey's side return to the division they dropped out of in 2017.

Fast start gives York the edge in cult-classic at the LNER

As the stadium DJ made their way through all of the traditional pre-match classics, ranging from Fatboy Slim's 'Right Here. Right Now', to Gala's 'Freed From Desire', before ending on Sergei Prokofiev's 'Dance of the Knights', the York supporters inside the LNER Stadium began their rallying cries ahead of the upcoming battle.

Yet, before the DJ even had time to return their '2002 Ministry of Sound Cult Classics' CD to its case, the hosts had already found a breakthrough. Sweeping home from inside the penalty area, John-Lewis' third goal of the playoff campaign fired York in front after just five minutes. On the scoresheet against both Chorley and Brackley Town in the previous rounds, there felt a certain sense of inevitability about the Grimsby Town loanee's contribution.

Much like the last remnants from the smoke bombs set off by the York supporters in the aftermath of the opening goal, it looked as if Boston's hopes of earning promotion to the National League would fade away into the Yorkshire afternoon. Instead, the visitors reacted positively. Luke Shiels registered his side's first shot of the match midway through the half, but the skewed bicycle kick from the Pilgrims' captain failed to trouble the hosts' goal.

Having weathered the immediate Boston storm, York's attention switched towards finding a second goal to kill the tie before half-time. Shimmying onto his left foot from just outside the penalty box, Clayton Donaldson's curling strike looked to have Pilgrims goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst beaten, only for the crossbar to deny the Minstermen winger. Reprieve for the travelling Boston supporters behind the goal, whose side failed to offer much optimism during a bruising first 45 minutes.

Boston lack edge as York capitalise on sluggish second half

Sub-par throughout the first half, Boston's response needed to be steadfast in the second, or the Lincolnshire side risked letting their season limp towards a disappointing conclusion. Turning to his substitutes early, Paul Cox brought Ntumba Massanka off the bench in search of the desired equaliser. While his side did begin to enjoy more of the possession, it would be Cox himself who made the first contribution of the half, with the Boston boss receiving a yellow card from referee Matt Corlett.

Pressurising without ever looking threatening, Boston's efforts did little to trouble the York backline, who were comfortable dealing with the constant flow of aerial balls. The introduction of James Hanson appeared to provide the visitors with a focal point in attack, yet the veteran striker's 6 ft 4 presence offered little more than a hindrance, as opposed to the desired solution.

Desperate for a moment of magic, Boston enjoyed their brightest spell of the match, with Shane Byrne forcing Pete Jameson into a sharp save from a close-range free-kick, before substitute Massanka's swivelled effort was fired into the York goalkeeper's midriff. From that point on, the stage was set for the hosts to seal it on the break, with Kouhyar's deflected strike securing promotion in the final five minutes.

Flooding the pitch at full-time, it's still a long way from the days of the Football League the York faithful once enjoyed, yet the promotion represents another step in the right direction for the Minstermen. A historic club, in a historic city, York have returned to a place where its devoted supporters will no doubt believe they belong. No longer a sleeping giant, the Minstermen have awoken, with the National League their next destination.


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