1 The search for an anchorman goes on

Since Adriano Moke suffered a pulled thigh muscle at Southport, three men have auditioned for the deep-lying midfield role in Gary Mills’ 4-3-3 formation and each player has fallen short of the standards needed. During Mills’ last spell at the Bootham Crescent helm, he employed a playmaker like Andre Boucaud or a defensive shield in the form of Dan Parslow in the system’s pivotal position.

With the latter option in mind, Mills opted for centre-back Jassem Sukar after Moke’s injury at Southport, but the rookie 20-year-old looked ill-prepared to master an unfamiliar position at such short notice and suffered the embarrassment of becoming a substituted substitute. Next, progressive runner Simon Heslop was handed the responsibility at home to FC United of Manchester with the expectation of being the launch pad for starting attacks from his own half in a similar vein to Moke, but he didn’t look a natural fit either and, after a series of stray passes in unsafe areas of the pitch, was sent off for a second bookable offence following a reckless lunge.

At Chorley, Connor Smith started off in the position despite playing on the wing for large parts of his career. He looked comfortable on the ball to at least compensate for Moke’s absence in that respect.

But, off the ball, he was less sure of his duties with offensive home midfielder Nick Haughton given the freedom to fire away shots from the edge of City’s penalty box no less than five times during the opening 45 minutes – the first occasion after only ten seconds. For a player who had previously struggled to hold down a regular starting place during two spells with the Minstermen under Mills, Moke had shown clear signs that he was ready to play a leading part in the club’s fortunes by holding down such a key position this term.

Not a natural tackler, his positional discipline, nevertheless, ensured he protected the back four during three consecutive games without conceding a goal and his ability to be a willing receiver and retainer of possession also meant he brought some fluency to the team’s forward play. Mills has previously gone on record as saying Theo Wharton is the most like-for-like replacement for Moke and it will be interesting to see if the 22-year-old former Cardiff City reserve is next in line or a tactical change is in the offing.

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2 Hamza Bencherif must become the defensive pillar of reliable strength he can be

Mistakes are often more forgivable when committed by younger players, with the rationale being that they are an unavoidable necessity in the path to becoming an assured professional. At 29, former Nottingham Forest trainee Bencherif cannot be excused on the grounds of inexperience following the decision that an angry Mills blamed for a “diabolical and horrendous” first goal.

The ex-Algeria under-20 international’s short back pass landed City in trouble and, after his red card at Bradford Park Avenue for a silly short pull when the visitors led 5-0, question marks are starting to be raised concerning his reliability and consistency, which is all the more perplexing given the commanding performances that have been witnessed at other points in his Bootham Crescent career. Like Simon Heslop and Amari Morgan-Smith, Bencherif has never been benched for City under Mills but, going forward, all three players must display a level of consistency that befits their years in the game and the faith their manager has shown by making them automatic picks.

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3 If Jon Parkin and Michael Rankine are to play in the same side they must do so as orthodox striking partners

Along with Moke’s unavailability, the bruised rib injury that has deprived him of the services of Louis Almond for the last two games has also presented Mills with a selection dilemma. Opting to persist with 4-3-3 at Victory Park, Mills tried to shoehorn powerhouse forward Rankine into a three-pronged strikeforce by asking him to operate on the left flank.

It was a decision that backfired with Rankine lacking the energy to track back when required and his ability to unsettle and occupy defences was wasted out on the touchline. He might still have made a better fist of it before being withdrawn on 55 minutes, but it is unlikely to be an experiment City revisit.

Neither Parkin or Rankine is suited to wing duty and the only way they could be accommodated in the team together is seemingly in a two with somebody quick and intuitive operating close enough to feed off them.

York Press:

4 Set-piece situations were relied upon too heavily for a goal threat

From creating chances for fun when Moke was pulling the strings and Almond racking up assist after assist, City’s forward potency was disjointed again without both players. In fact, after the 31st minute, the visitors’ only opportunities came from dead balls – a Josh Law free kick, a Muggleton corner and two long throws from the latter. Jon Parkin forced a decent save from his head after one of the deliveries, but that was pretty much the sum of City’s attacking threat in the final hour.

Muggleton’s touchline talent remains a useful option to perhaps sway a close contest in the latter stages, but Mills will not want to keep relying upon it as a means of digging his side out of trouble earlier and earlier in games - the former Eastleigh and Barnet full back has now been introduced on 62, 50 and 67 minutes in the last three matches with his team-mates trailing in each contest.

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5 City remain in the realms of the surreal

With chairman Jason McGill not in attendance, a couple of frustrated City fans called on chief executive Jackie McNamara – who failed to win any of his 25 away games as manager – to sack Gary Mills, who had just lost his second match on the road throughout the whole of 2017 in possibly as stark an example imaginable to demonstrate the hierarchical absurdity that persists at Bootham Crescent.