ALDERSHOT, a town better known for its army barracks than its football club, gave York City a lesson in discipline at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

After an attractive and evenly-contested first half, the home side were more regimental in defence than their former Football League visitors with ex-City centre half and current Aldershot captain Ray Warburton organising a well-drilled back division.

The Minstermen, in contrast, marshalled their rearguard less effectively and also saw new midfielder Gary Pearson sent off for an alleged head butt on 69 minutes.

Pearson was not the only City summer signing of the eight on show to have a disappointing debut with 6ft 4in centre back Chris Clarke suffering a torrid afternoon at the hands of Aldershot's lively front men Roscoe D'Sane and Aaron McLean.

Clarke was regularly outjumped by the 5ft 6in, spring-heeled McLean in the air and just as comprehensively beaten on the deck by the turbo-charged D'Sane. The latter ghosted past the tormented Clarke to supply crosses for both of Aldershot's goals and the 23-year-old defender's 75th-minute substitution could be perceived as an act of mercy.

City's susceptibility to pace at the back will have provided City player-boss Chris Brass early cause for concern although whether D'Sane and McLean's speed is representative of most Nationwide Conference strike forces is doubtful.

Aldershot's performance suggested that the quality of football in the Conference could differ little to that City faced in the Third Division last season.

Determined in defence, tidy in midfield and dangerous in attack, City could probably not have faced a more difficult opponent to begin life in the Conference than last season's beaten play-off finalists, especially away from home.

However, Brass' newly-assembled side were the more impressive team in the opening stages and fought out an even contest for the first hour.

Bryan Stewart was preferred to David Merris on the left wing to illustrate Brass' faith in a player who had not figured in any of the Minstermen's pre-season games.

And the Scottish teenager, who attacked the far post at every opportunity when play was on the opposite flank during the early exchanges, headed Pearson's deep right-wing cross wide in the first minute.

A smart shot on the turn by Andy Bishop from 25 yards was then unconvincingly fumbled around a post by goalkeeper Nikki Bull and a quickly-taken Darren Dunning shot from a similar distance brushed the side-netting.

Aldershot signalled their first warning when McLean's prodigous leap took him above Clarke to head into the path of Nick Crittenden, who dragged a good opportunity wide. Brass then made two goal-line clearances to deny impressive midfielder Adam Miller and McLean.

Bishop, who along with fellow striker Paul Robinson worked hard for City, headed narrowly wide after another Pearson cross.

Robinson's glancing header from a Dunning free-kick then forced Bull into an early second half save. Then another header, this time from Paul Groves, lacked the power to beat Aldershot's 'keeper.

Substitute Levent Yalcin also fired a low 25-yard drive narrowly wide shortly after his 58th-minute introduction.

But it was a moment of D'Sane inspiration that broke the deadlock. The Shots' leading marksman last season had earlier seen Paul Crichton palm behind a shot at his near post after he escaped the attentions of City defenders Steve Davis and Shaun Smith.

And, on 64 minutes, he raced past Clarke on the right wing before delivering an inviting cross for sub Jon Challinor, who had only been on the pitch for two minutes, to sidefoot home.

Challinor then fired another chance straight at Crichton before Pearson went nose to nose with Miller following a touchline tackle and then foolishly, if not particularly violently, nudged his head into the midfielder's face.

Referee Martin Yerby immediately brandished his red card and ten-man City were always heading for defeat from that point.

Steve Watson found Crichton's bottom corner on 71 minutes after D'Sane had waltzed past Clarke again down the inside-right channel.

Substitute Graeme Law was then slightly fortunate not to concede a penalty after nibbling at Miller, who went close to adding a third goal with a last-minute curling effort.

Aldershot 2 (Challinor 64, Watson 71); York City 0

Crichton 6, Brass 7, Davis 7, Clarke 4 (Law 75min), Smith 6, Pearson 5, Groves 7, Dunning 7, Stewart 6, Robinson 7 (Yalcin 58min, 7), Bishop 8

Subs (not used): Porter Merris Arthur

Key: 10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - Retire

Star man:

Bishop - very comfortable on the ball and looked City's biggest goal threat

Aldershot: Bull, Warner, Warburton (Johnson 85), Giles, D Barnard, Crittenden (Challinor 62), Watson, McAuley, Miller, D'Sane (Antwi 79), McLean

Subs (not used): R Barnard, Smith

Yellow cards: Watson 56, Davis 66, Dunning 84, Barnard 90

Red card: Pearson 69

Referee: Martin Yearby (Kent). Rating: Solid display suggesting that trepidation about Conference officials might not be justified

Attendance: 3,368

Weather watch: Sunny and warm

Game breaker: Pearson's red card made the difficult task of finding an equaliser increasingly unlikely

Match rating: Entertaining Conference curtain-raiser but City lost their way after an hour

Updated: 09:37 Monday, August 16, 2004