ONCE-PROUD York City completed one of the most humiliating weeks in the club’s history after being beaten by a second part-time team in the space of five days.
Eastbourne Borough, known as Langney Sports just eight years ago, followed Barrow in heaping shame on the KitKat Crescent club, who are now staring the prospect of semi-professional football firmly in the face themselves.
The likes of Solihull Moors, Vauxhall Motors and King’s Lynn could soon lie in wait after the Minstermen slipped another place in the Blue Square Premier table.
City are now just just four points above the relegation zone and, if that was not sufficient cause for concern, of the sides below them, Barrow and Grays have three games in hand, Salisbury and Forest Green two and Woking one.
Both Barrow and Woking claimed maximum points at the weekend to claw back the gap on 17th-placed City, who have lost four of their last five league matches with the only anomaly a 3-0 victory over doomed Lewes.
Saturday’s first-half display was appalling with only Michael Ingham and some poor Eastbourne finishing saving the visitors from a 5-0 hiding before the break.
Lively on-loan Plymouth strikers Ashley Barnes and Dan Smith ran rings around a jittery City defence while wide men Simon Rusk and Andy McWilliams failed to make any progress down the flanks and Christian Smith and Levi Mackin looked off the pace in midfield.
In attack, Simon Brown regularly strayed offside while Richard Brodie, for once, struggled to salvage a sorry situation.
Full-backs Kyle Critchell and Mark Robinson were possibly City’s best players in possession, suggesting a return to wing-backs might just instigate an improvement in fortunes.
A frustrated Martin Foyle has certainly tried just about everything else.
In his 13-match reign, the City boss has used 25 different players.
Bar a handful of honourable exceptions, he might have been better served writing the players’ names on scraps of paper, throwing them in the air and then picking the first XI that fall to the ground such has been the quality, consistency and commitment provided by many this season.
Unsurprisingly, Foyle has turned to players he is familiar with as he strives to reverse the club’s fortunes and, while Wrexham recruits Mackin and Smith struggled in the first half, both gave glimpses after the break of how their presence could be felt when fully fit.
Smith scored his second goal in as many games since signing for City and his former Racecourse Ground team-mate Critchell was also the visitors’ best outfield player.
The Minstermen performed better after the interval – which only makes the opening 45 minutes even more infuriating – but could still muster just two shots on target with a tame Brodie effort forcing Sports ’keeper Lee Hook into his solitary save of the afternoon.
Earlier, City’s inability to find any form of cohesion to their play handed the initiative to their hosts.
On nine minutes, Smith headed a great chance wide after being picked out at the far post by Barnes, who then opened the scoring on the quarter-hour mark.
This time, Smith sent in a dangerous cross from the left that Parslow could only head into the path of Barnes, who beat Ingham from six yards.
Moments later, a loose ball by Mackin saw Barnes ride a sliding challenge from last man Mark Greaves before Ingham saved low to his left.
Brodie ballooned a rare effort over at the other end when the ball fell to his feet ten yards from goal before an unchallenged Matt Crabb powered a downward header wide with the goal at his mercy five yards out having been picked out by another Smith centre.
Former Northern Ireland international Ingham came to his side’s rescue again on 23 minutes when he got his fingertips to a fine first-time Barnes strike from the edge of the penalty box.
An injury to Greaves, playing in the centre of defence, then saw Craig Farrell introduced on the right wing with Critchell moving inside from full-back, where Rusk filled in.
On 49 minutes, Farrell sidefooted a deflected effort into the sidenetting after meeting Brodie’s cross to the far post but missed an easier opportunity when he headed wide from six yards after good work by Robinson.
Eastbourne then doubled their advantage on 55 minutes when Rusk cleared Marc Pullen’s shot off the line from Smith’s left-wing corner, but Ben Austin followed up to net from six yards.
The visitors pulled one back eight minutes later when substitute Adam Boyes chased a long punt down the right channel by Ingham before playing the ball back to Brown, who had shifted on to the right wing after the teenage striker’s introduction.
Brown’s cross into the six-yard box was then met by a determined Smith, who headed past Hook.
A flagging Eastbourne hung on for the remainder of the game but, despite their territorial advantage, the Minstermen’s hopes of an equaliser were limited.
Mackin sliced a long-range shot over and Brodie flicked the ball across the face of goal with the outside of his left boot as Hook raced out to meet him following Rusk’s searching pass.
Eastbourne might have added to the scoreline, however, during the closing stages with a fierce Barnes cross ricocheting narrowly wide off Critchell and Nathan Crabb bursting past Parslow in stoppage time before calling Ingham into action at his near post.
Next up is Altrincham – no doubt hoping to strike another blow for the part-timers and inflict an unwanted hat-trick on the Minstermen.
Eastbourne 2 (Barnes 15; Austin 55), York City 1 (Smith 63)
City: Michael Ingham 7, Kyle Critchell 7, Mark Greaves 5, Danny Parslow 5, Mark Robinson 6, Simon Rusk 5, Levi Mackin 6, Christian Smith 6, Andy McWilliams 5, Richard Brodie 5, Simon Brown 5.
Substitutions: Craig Farrell (for Greaves, 37) 5, Adam Boyes (for McWilliams, 59) 7, Liam Shepherd (for Robinson, 87).
Subs not used: Kelly, Russell.
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: Ingham – kept the scoreline respectable in the first half and looked positive throughout.
Eastbourne: Lee Hook, Ben Austin, Darren Baker, Marc Pullen, Neil Jenkins, Jay Lovett, Dan Brown, Matt Smart, Matt Crabb (Patrick Harding, 77), Ashley Barnes (Andy Atkin, 88), Dan Smith (Nathan Crabb, 77).
Subs (not used): Simon Wormull, Simon Johnson.
Yellow cards: Jenkins 76.
Shots on target: Eastbourne 6, York 2
Shots off target: Eastbourne 8, York 6
Corners: Eastbourne 4, York 8
Fouls conceded: Eastbourne 6, York 15
Offsides: Eastbourne 5, York 5
Referee: Matt McLaughlin (Luton).
Rating: decisive and moved around the pitch well.
Save of the match: Ingham’s one-on-one stop to deny Barnes.
Cross of the match: Brown’s centre for Smith’s goal. City need more deliveries of that nature.
Collision of the match: Brodie displayed his commitment to the cause with a nasty and noisy crash into the advertising hoardings, somehow avoiding injury.
City player watch: Christian Smith
Goal attempts on target: 1
Goal attempts off target: 0
Blocked goal attempts: 1
Passes to own player: 19
Passes to opposition: 8
Crosses to own player: 1
Crosses to opposition: 0
Pass completion rate: 71.4 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 2
Dribbles ball lost: 2
Dribble completion rate: 50 per cent
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 2
Fouls won: 1
Fouls conceded: 3
Yellow cards: 0
Final summary: After a tough first half, Smith gave more signs that he could be an asset to the side when fully fit. At the moment, he can appear to be running through treacle in the City midfield but he is strong on the ball and does not shy away from a challenge as his seven tackles illustrated. Will also, no doubt, improve in possession when less tired and displayed great desire for his goal.