Starting To Worry About RAY

CHARLIE Hempstead takes an alternative look at the 2-0 defeat to York City on Easter Monday...

ONE of the things about a ground as small as Bootham Crescent is that you get to see the players in extreme close-up.

Some, like Tyler Harvey, look so young that if they weren’t in their playing kit, you would have pointed them in the direction of the family enclosure.

Others are at the opposite end of the scale. Unless you have seen it up close, you cannot appreciate just what a lived-in face York centre forward Richard Cresswell possesses. The same could be said of his direct opponent in the heart of the Argyle defence, Guy Branston.

With the equally venerable – but slightly less gnarled – Paul Wotton partnering Branston, this was a three-way match-up that had seen it all before. In fact, if you laid their ages end-to-end, you’d go all the way back to 1909.

For the record, that was the season when Bristol City reached the FA Cup Final, Leicester Fosse finished bottom of the First Division, and the bloke in front of me in the York City scarf attended his first home game.

Now of course, I can’t say for certain that this last statement is true, but it is a reasonably safe assumption, since he had obviously been around a very long time and knew everything there is to know about, well, everything.

This first became apparent in the 14th minute, when York midfielder Josh Carson was booked for sweeping Max Blanchard’s legs from underneath him.

Alternatively, the yellow card may have been brandished because Carson then kicked the ball away after the foul had been given. Either way, it was entirely the right decision, but it enraged RAY (the Really Angry Yorkshireman), who launched into a harangue against referee Harrington. “Oh tha’s really doon it now, ref. Tha’s set t’ standard. Tha’ll have to book ‘em all.”

A few minutes later, Paris Cowan-Hall failed to keep the ball in play on the touchline and nudged it a few yards further away. This of course was a capital offence in the eyes of RAY, who started to sense a southern conspiracy when no yellow card was shown.

Now, it is not unusual for football fans to think that the referee is favouring the opposition, but to base that belief on some sort of geographical old pals’ act, when the referee is from Middlesbrough (49 miles from York, 376 miles from Plymouth), is stretching it a bit.

Maybe Middlesbrough was in the south-west in 1909.

With Argyle’s performance being as poor as it had been outstanding 48 hours earlier against Exeter, they really could have done with a few genuinely dodgy decisions from the referee, but the youthful whistler was actually having a pretty good game.

When Joe Bryan’s name entered the little black book following a mistimed tackle, there could be no complaints. Unless, of course, your name is RAY, who looked like he was ready to start a petition for the young winger to be imprisoned without parole.

Oddly, when Carson repeated his earlier misdemeanour of kicking the ball away after the whistle a few minutes later, RAY was not calling for the official to apply the laws.

With York two goals to the good and half an hour played, RAY might have been expected to calm down a little. Not a bit of it.

As Blanchard cleared a ball up the line from his right-back position, York’s Adam Reed slid in to try to make the block, but succeeded only in hurting himself in the process. RAY was apoplectic.

“Well may tha’ walk away, lad, lookin’ all innocent!”, he bellowed at the bewildered (and entirely innocent) Frenchman. Quite what Max’s felony was supposed to have been was not clear, but he was wearing yellow, which was good enough for RAY.

Spending 90 minutes watching Argyle play like this is hard enough, but doing so to the accompaniment of the World According To RAY is really not how most people would choose to spend a Bank Holiday far, far from home.

The only way to survive it was to try to see the funny side.

So it was that the rest of the match was spent anticipating RAY’s reactions to events, a mild diversion that followed a simple format.

Scenario 1: Referee gives free-kick to Plymouth. RAY’s anticipated reaction: “Ref!!! How can tha’ give that?”. RAY’s actual reaction: as anticipated, every time.

Scenario 2: Referee gives free-kick to York. RAY’s anticipated reaction: “’bout time tha’ got a decision right, ref”. RAY’s actual reaction: as anticipated, every time.

With time running out, Onismor Bhasera picked up a booking for speaking out of turn to the referee, giving RAY the opportunity to hit new heights.

“That’ll teach thee to keep tha’ mouth shut, lad!”

Irony is not dead.