YORK City managed two consecutive clean sheets on only one occasion in the Blue Square Premier last season.
But a highly-impressive 1-0 victory over Wrexham last night means the Minstermen have achieved the feat in the first two fixtures of the new campaign.
This time last season, Mark Greaves was busy exposing the Minstermen’s aerial frailties as he headed in the first goal of a morale-sapping 4-3 defeat at ten-man Burton Albion.
Last night, the new City skipper opened his account at KitKat Crescent in similar fashion, heading home from a Simon Rusk corner to score the only goal of a high-quality game on 74 minutes.
A determined finish to the match saw City emerge worthy winners against a strong Wrexham team, who thumped pre-season title favourites Stevenage 5-0 on Saturday.
On the early evidence of successive 1-0 victories, there certainly seems a greater resolve to this City side than the one that shared ten goals – and shipped six – in their opening two fixtures of last season.
The game will also have provided a huge psychological boost for 19-year-old ’keeper Josh Mimms who, after replacing the injured Artur Krysiak on 43 minutes, helped safeguard maximum points with two fine saves during a confident second-half display.
A cagey start to the match saw neither side muster a shot in the opening 15 minutes, although Wrexham striker Jefferson Louis looked a strong aerial threat and City survived a series of nervy corners early on.
It was the Minstermen, however, who created the first opening of the game on 17 minutes when Craig Farrell fed an overlapping Ben Purkiss down the right flank.
Purkiss’ centre flicked off the head of defender Nat Brown and behind Daniel McBreen, but City’s Australian striker still managed to divert the ball goalbound with his trailing leg only to see his improvised effort trickle wide.
City, finding their stride, then saw Simon Rusk fire narrowly over from 25 yards after he had spun around marker Tom Kearney following a Mark Robinson throw in. Brodie also saw a six-yard chance deflected over the bar after McBreen’s right-wing cross had been cushioned perfectly into his path by Greaves’ far-post header.
City continued to forage forward and, on 31 minutes, McBreen picked out a surging run into the penalty box by Ben Wilkinson, but the former Gretna midfielder fired across the face of goal and wide from 12 yards.
Wrexham’s first noteworthy attempt of the half came shortly afterwards when Sam Aiston cut in from the left and flashed a right-footed effort wide of Krysiak’s far post.
The lively Aiston then delivered a cross from a similar position that glanced off the head of Louis and wide before City lost the services of Krysiak after Wrexham’s Simon Brown conceded a free-kick colliding into the Polish ’keeper contesting an aerial challenge in the penalty box.
Mimms, who has now replaced three City ’keepers in Tom Evans, Michael Ingham and Krysiak as a substitute, was tested soon afterwards and looked hesitant as Kearney’s free-kick saw Darren Kempson head the ball out of his hands before referee Jock Waugh blew the half-time whistle.
City started the second half positively with Purkiss’ free-kick to the far post being headed back across the six-yard box by Greaves, where McBreen should have done better than nodding wide.
An off-balance McBreen also sliced into the David Longhurst Stand from 25 yards on 51 minutes.
Wrexham, though, managed the evening’s first shot on target when Aiston evaded tackles by Rusk and Wilkinson during a strong 50-yard run down the middle of the pitch. The impressive midfielder then fed Shaun Whalley but his low 15-yard drive was gathered by Mimms.
Colin Walker responded by pushing Farrell, who had been operating on the right flank into a central role alongside the hard-working McBreen and, after Aiston had forced Mimms into a fine parry from the edge of the box, replaced left-winger Brodie with Niall Henderson.
On 66 minutes, the ball then broke for Wrexham midfielder Simon Brown 20 yards out, but he fired straight at Mimms.
City’s first on-target effort of the match came two minutes afterwards, but Henderson’s 30-yard sidefooted shot was too weak to trouble Wrexham stopper Gavin Ward. Both ’keepers, however, were forced into excellent saves in quick succession as the tempo of the game rose.
First, Mimms was at full stretch to push a 35-yard Carl Demarco volley around his right-hand post.
Then, Ward reacted instinctively to tip over a thumping edge-of-the-box drive from Wilkinson.
City broke the deadlock, however, from the resulting corner. Rusk swung the 74th-minute flag kick to the far post where Greaves rose unchallenged to send a downward header bouncing into the roof of the net from three yards out.
The Minstermen went close to doubling their advantage on 78 minutes when Ward clawed a curling 20-yard Rusk effort away from his top corner after the City midfielder had combined excellently with Farrell.
Mimms then completed an assured second-half performance by pushing away a Kearney corner to his far post and, seconds later in the last minute of stoppage time, Simon Spender drove over from 20 yards with home fans baying for the final whistle, which was duly signalled.
Histon are next up and will provide the ultimate test for the new, robust City.
York City 1, Wrexham 0
City: Artur Krysiak 7, Ben Purkiss 8, Danny Parslow 9, David McGurk 9, Mark Robinson 8, Craig Farrell 8, Mark Greaves 9, Simon Rusk 9, Ben Wilkinson 8, Richard Brodie 7, Daniel McBreen 9.
Substitutions: Josh Mimms (for Krysiak, 43) 8, Niall Henderson (for Brodie, 63) 8, Onome Sodje (for McBreen, 81).
Subs not used: Kelly, Shepherd.
Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.
City’s star man: Greaves – the City skipper is proving an absolute menace at attacking set-pieces and a tower of strength defending them.
Wrexham: Gavin Ward, Simon Spender, Darren Kempson, Nat Brown (Steve Evans, 70), Carl Tremarco, Simon Brown (Wes Baynes, 81), Tom Kearney, Christian Smith, Sam Aiston, Jefferson Louis (Marc Williams, 81), Shaun Whalley.
Subs: Anthony Williams, Neil Taylor.
Yellow cards: McBreen 41, McGurk 70, Tremarco 72.
Shots on target: York 3, Wrexham 4.
Shots off target: York 8, Wrexham 5.
Corners: York 7, Wrexham 9.
Fouls conceded: York 13, Wrexham 20.
Offsides: York 3, Wrexham 3.
Referee: Jock Waugh (Sheffield).
Rating: largely correct in his decision-making and looks one of the better Blue Square Premier whistle blowers.
Attendance: 2,603 (354 away fans).
Save of the match: Ward’s athletic effort to keep out Rusk’s curling shot even eclipsed Mimms’ fine stops.
Cross of the match: Rusk’s perfectly-aimed corner on to the head of Greaves.
City player watch: David McGurk
Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 0
Blocked goal attempts: 0
Passes to own player: 12
Passes to opposition: 2
Crosses to own player: 0
Crosses to opposition: 0
Pass completion rate: 85.7 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 0
Dribbles ball lost: 2
Dribble completion rate: 0
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 4
Fouls won: 3
Fouls conceded: 1
Yellow cards: 1
Final summary: McGurk gave a typically impeccable performance at the heart of the City defence, working in tandem with the equally impressive Parslow.
The City centre-back did not manage a goal attempt in 90 minutes, but the onus on him in such situations is not as great following the arrival of Greaves.
McGurk’s clean tacking was illustrated by just one foul all night and his low tally of clearances illustrates his calmness on the ball.