HAMZA Bencherif is convinced he will end his long goal drought at York City under new boss Martin Gray.

The 6ft 3in defender once netted 11 times in a Football League season for Macclesfield, but is yet to open his account during 36 appearances for the Minstermen.

Having seen an injury-time effort scrambled off the line, though, during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Leamington, Bencherif believes the training-ground attention ex-Darlington chief Gary is dedicating to set-plays will see him back on the scoresheet before too long.

“Defending will always be what matters most to me, but I’m hoping that first goal is coming,” the former Algeria under-20 international admitted. “We’ve got some set-plays now that we are working on and we scored from one against Brackley so, hopefully, I can get on the end of one. I’ve been getting closer, but it’s not come yet.”

Bencherif added that he felt his late chance at the New Windmill Ground might have been kept out illegally, but reasoned that the visitors, who threw away a 2-0 lead in the final five minutes, should not have been in a situation where they were relying on referee decisions.

“We were appealing for handball,” he revealed in reference to his opportunity. “It was a bit of a scramble and hit their player, but the ball was moving quickly and I’m not sure if it struck his hand or chest.

“By then, though, we were in a position where we were begging for everything. The bigger shout was the obvious penalty on Amari (Morgan-Smith) when he was barged over.

“It’s a shame that wasn’t given, but it’s still something we shouldn’t have needed with a 2-0 lead, because we should have protected that. We can’t expect to win 5-0 every week and, at 2-0, we looked comfortable but, after their first goal, they started believing in themselves and we shouldn’t have given them that chance.

“We can’t accept that as a team at all if we want to play for the high stakes and it was disappointing, because we had been playing well in defence. Sometimes you don’t concede a goal and you haven’t played well.

“That didn’t feel the case so, while we can’t be happy giving away two goals in the last five minutes, we did look solid and organised up to then, which is a positive we can take going forward.”

Bencherif also felt that on-loan Leeds keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell equipped himself impressively on his debut, enthusing: “He did extremely well.

“It felt comfortable with him back there and, even though he isn’t loud, he expressed himself quite well with his physique and you knew where he was and what he was going to do. You could feel his aura and presence in the 18-yard box and, if there was anything in that area, you knew he’d get it, which was reassuring.

“He’d only been here a few days before the game and he’s only young so, the more he gets to know the dressing room, the more he’ll get used to everyone, because you can be a bit wary at first. It will all be a bit different to Leeds, especially when you’ve got tractors driving past behind your goal, as they were at Leamington.

“That must have been quite a shock for him, but he was really professional and this experience will help him get better.”

The Paris-born centre-back is now preparing for Saturday’s National League Trip to Salford, where the Minstermen have already tasted victory in the FA Cup last month and, on the relevance of that contest, Bencherif reasoned: “It will be a positive because we know what they are about and know how to deal with them, although there is a big difference between a cup and a league game.”

On the transition from former boss Gary Mills to Gray, meanwhile, Bencherif pointed out: “The new manager is working us just as hard during the week and the main difference is that everybody has started from scratch again and has an equal opportunity to play their part.

“We’ve also been doing double sessions, which the older players have been joining in too and I think we’re looking fit and sharp, as people get used to it and enjoy it.”