THE festive spirit was contagious at Home Park on Saturday.
Santa made an early appearance on the Plymouth Argyle pitch prior to kick off and one lucky supporter even walked away with £12,000 after winning a half-time competition.
By then, York City had also gifted the hosts a 1-0 lead following Jamal Fyfield’s 44th-minute own goal.
Another half that saw the visitors as listless as they had been in the first then presented Plymouth with the opportunity to win their first match in ten fixtures as substitute Nick Chadwick’s late header wrapped up maximum points.
In total, City managed only three shots – and only one on target – during a disappointing display that saw manager Gary Mills select the same starting XI that had performed so well seven days earlier in a 3-2 win at Rochdale.
Plymouth, however, deserve as much credit as any amount of criticism directed at the visitors, including that vented by certain elements of the short-changed away following, who were certainly in no mood for the season of goodwill at the final whistle.
As predicted by City chief Gary Mills, the Green Army were not as poor as their recent results suggested, following a run of eight defeats in nine games.
Despite that sequence, Plymouth had the courage to express themselves on the ball with City in the unaccustomed role of shadow chasers for the majority of the 90 minutes.
Only in the final third of the pitch did Carl Fletcher’s team appear to run out of ideas.
More incisive play there might have resulted in a bigger margin of defeat for the Minstermen.
At the other end, City’s front three of Matty Blair, Jason Walker and Ashley Chambers were comfortably shackled by a Plymouth team that had gone into the match without a clean sheet in 18 fixtures.
Little changed, either, when Mills switched to a 3-4-3 formation midway through the second period and threw Jamie Reed on.
A tenth-minute Paddy McLaughlin drive that whistled wide of Rene Gilmartin’s goal from 25 yards proved City’s best effort of the afternoon.
Plymouth, meanwhile, largely resorted to equally long-range attempts from the likes of Mark Molesley, Andres Gurrieri, Rhys Griffiths and Luke Young during the first half.
But four-goal top scorer Paris Cowan-Hall spurned the best chance of the opening period with a horrendous miss.
A casual header by Chris Smith, meant for Michael Ingham, was intercepted by the Woking winger but he went on to slice woefully over an empty net.
After Blair’s weak ten-yard shot only required a routine save from Gilmartin – his first and last of the game – Cowan-Hall’s profligacy was forgotten when Young’s left-wing corner travelled right across the six-yard box before striking Fyfield, under pressure from Griffiths, four yards from goal and bouncing over the line.
Following the interval, Curtis Nelson drove wide of Ingham’s left-hand upright after carrying the ball into the penalty box.
He also saw another shot pushed over the bar by City’s ’keeper on 71 minutes.
Cowan-Hall went close with a six-yard shot on the turn shortly afterwards while the only threat Mills’ men could muster in response was a dangerous left-wing Walker cross to the far post that hit an unwitting Smith and came to nought.
Defeat was confirmed on 89 minutes when Molesley embarked on a strong run down the middle of the pitch before feeding the overlapping Young.
Ingham thrust out his left arm to brilliantly keep out Young’s subsequent low drive but Chadwick followed up unchallenged to nod into an unguarded net from four yards.
After witnessing the uneven contest, Mills lamented his side’s failure to win any second balls – an attribute that would feature highly in any analysis of Jonathan Smith’s biggest qualities as a footballer.
The City chief will, no doubt, now weigh up whether the time is right to recall Smith from his loan spell at Luton and, indeed, discover whether the combative midfielder wants to return following comments that he is desperate to stay at Kenilworth Road.
Plymouth Argyle 2 (Fyfield og 44; Chadwick 89), York City 0
Michael Ingham 7
Might be unhappy with nature of first goal, but was very unlucky to concede the second.
Dan Parslow 7
STAR MAN – gave a strong defensive display and hosts had very little joy down his flank.
Chris Smith 6
Lucky not to be punished by Cowan-Hall in the first half, but competent enough otherwise.
Chris Doig 6
Given a couple of nervy moments, but coped with lone striker Griffiths before being substituted.
Jamal Fyfield 6
Perhaps could have dealt with own goal better, but over-ran for the second after the switch to a three-man defence.Scott Kerr 6 Released Chambers down the left flank with some fine early passes but influence waned as Plymouth dominated the midfield.
Michael Potts 5
Could not reproduce his heroics of the previous weekend before departing early in the second half.
Paddy McLaughlin 5
Managed City’s only decent attempt at goal, but faded out of the action prior to his withdrawal.
Matty Blair 5
Could not get into the game and was stopped quickly in his tracks during a couple of typical right-wing bursts.
Jason Walker 5
Endured a frustrating time with too many passes going astray and did not have a single sight of goal.
Ashley Chambers 5
Failed to capitalise on some promising early positions through the left channel and then became peripheral.
Subs: Jamie Reed 5 – contained (for Potts, 58) Jon Challinor 6 – eager (for McLaughlin, 58), Danny Blanchett 5 – quiet (for Doig, 68). Not used: Allan, Musselwhite, McGurk, Rodman.
Rene Gilmartin, Curtis Nelson, Darren Purse, Max Blanchard, Onismor Bhasera, Luke Young, Mark Molesley, Conor Hourihane, Andres Gurrieri (Jamie Lowry, 82), Paris Cowan-Hall (Joe Lennox, 90), Rhys Griffiths (Nick Chadwick, 73). Subs not used: Jake Cole, Warren Feeney, Jamie Richards, Tyler Harvey.
Star man: Purse – drew on all his experience, a tower of strength.
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).
Rating: 7/10 – generally sound, but late flurry of cards was a little excessive with Parslow especially unlucky to be cautioned.
Booked: Gurrieri 82, Smith 90, Kerr 90, Parslow 90.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 5,881 (188 from City).
Shots on target: Plymouth 5, City 1.
Shots off target: Plymouth 12, City 2.
Corners: Plymouth 7, City 3.
Fouls conceded: Plymouth 12, City 19.
Offsides: Plymouth 5, City 0.