York City were delayed on their journey to Kidderminster by traffic bound for Cruft's, but when the Minstermen did arrive at Aggborough manager Chris Brass was left barking mad after a dog's dinner of a performance.

Brass has previously stated that the main reason he has been reluctant to take a break from playing this season has been because of the impact his absence could have on communication and organisation matters.

Well, the lack of an authoritative voice at the back was certainly evident after his enforced removal from the side on Saturday.

The manager, sidelined for his first game of a four-match ban, was the only player missing from the side that performed excellently to take a point at promotion-chasing Oxford in midweek and the drastic difference in display can be no coincidence.

A recalled Chris Smith had been assigned with the task of fulfilling Brass' organisational duties but the added responsibility seemed to weigh heavy on his young shoulders.

City struggled defensively with a lack of communication leading to players colliding into each other on more than one occasion.

At other times, players appeared reluctant to sieze the initiative and clear the danger when crosses were played into the visitors' box.

But the blame for defeat should not solely lie with City's defence with the display once more higlighting the attacking shortcomings that have seen the Third Division's lowest scorers net just 30 League goals this season.

The Minstermen's midfield and wing-backs struggled to provide any ammunition for a service-starved strikeforce.

In fact, player-coach Lee Nogan's best pass of the first half was a long punt upfield by goalkeeper Mark Ovendale that led to Justin Walker's penalty and ultimately Richard Cooper's goal on 41 minutes.

Before then, City had failed to manage a single goal attempt and Kidderminster were 2-0 ahead.

Former City striker John Williams, who belatedly picked up Division Three's Player of the Month award for January before the kick-off, operated for the majority of the game as a lone frontman but Kidderminster attacked with more purpose than their visitors.

Darren Edmondson and Darren Dunning's imminent returns should improve the team's creative potential and restoring the injured Richard Hope would, no doubt, correct some of the defensive frailties.

But City now need to rediscover a winning habit quickly, having endured nine matches since their last triumph - the 2-0 home win over bottom club Carlisle in the first game of 2004.

City arrived at Aggborough just half-an-hour before kick-off after their motorway problems and were a goal behind just ten minutes into the game.

David Merris flattened Adam Murray with a clumsy challenge in the penalty box and Ian Foster sent Ovendale the wrong way from the spot, sidefooting into the goalkeeper's vacant left-hand bottom corner.

Ovendale then beat out a Foster shot on 25 minutes and Murray sent a difficult volley over the unguarded net.

Kidderminster did add a second on 35 minutes when Sean Davies' tackle on the half-way line broke rather fortuitously to Murray who raced down the left flank before delivering a low cross to the far post where Dean Bennett was waiting to sidefoot under an exposed Ovendale.

The City goalkeeper led the protests as soon as the ball hit the back of the net and received a yellow card after arguing that play should have been stopped with on-loan midfielder Jonjo Dickman lying injured in the opposition box.

Dickman limped out of the action moments later and referee Mark Cowburn felt the wrath of City's 220 travelling fans.

City were then gifted an avenue back into the game when home goalkeeper Stuart Brock unnecessarily climbed all over the back of Nogan and Cowburn pointed to the spot.

With usual penalty taker Dunning was suspended, Walker volunteered his services in what could be his farewell apperance for the Minstermen but never looked convincing in his run up and Brock saved low to his right.

Fortunately, Walker did now wallow in self pity and reacted quickly to collect the loose ball and provide an accurate cross for substitute Cooper to head in from close range with his first touch.

Nogan then stabbed the ball wide from 12 yards after a Davies through ball but Kidderminster restored their two-goal cushion in the third and final minute of first-half stoppage time.

Murray's corner floated over Davies and, as City's defence dallied after Adrian Viveash's downward header, Mark Yates swivelled to fire low past Ovendale.

It was a blow City were never likely to recover from and Foster could have extended the lead on 54 minutes but shot straight at Ovendale after leaving Smith trailing in his wake.

Murray, who had a hand in the first three goals, got on the scoresheet himself in the 67th minute when he prodded past City's goalkeeper after Williams' first-time pass had sent the lively Foster charging down the left flank.

Cooper then went close to scoring a spectacular volleyed own goal, narrowly clearing the cross bar from the edge of the box.

At the other end, City only threatened the home goal twice despite the second half introductions of strikers Lev Yalcin and Andy Bell.

Smith saw a goalbound header cleared by Wayne Hatswell and Walker's weak free-kick was comfortably saved by Brock.

Match Facts:

Saturday, March 6, 2004

at Aggborough

Kidderminster 4

(Foster 10pen, Barnnett 35, Yates 45, Murray 67).

York City 1

(Cooper 41)

City ratings:

Ovendale 6

Wise 6

Smith 5

Davies 5

Wood 5

Walker 6

Ward 5

(Yalcin 68, 5)

Dickman 6

(Cooper 38, 6)

Merris 5

Bullock 5

Nogan 6

(Bell 50, 5)

Subs not used: Edmondson, Porter

Star Man: Wise - most positive defender in an uncertain display

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

Kidderminster: Stuart Brick, Wayne Hatswell (Abou Sall, 71), Adrian Viveash, Craig Hinton, Scott Stamps, Dean Bennett, Mark Yates, Adam Murray, Ian Foster (Sean Parrish, 81), Dean Keates, John Williams (Jesper Christiansen, 71).

Subs not used: John Danby, Graham Ward.

Yellow cards: Ovendale 35, Walker 38, Brock 39, Bennett 56.

Red cards: None

Referee: Mark Cowburn (Lancashire).

Rating: Experienced, but maybe time to retire.

Attendance: 2,569.

Weather watch: Sunny and mild.

Game breaker: Kidderminster's third goal in first half stoppage time killed off City.

Match rating: Few plus points for below-par City.

Player watch:

Leigh Wood

Shots on target: 0

Shots off target: 0

Passes to own player: 14

Passes to opposition: 7

Crosses to own player: 0

Crosses to opposition: 0

Pass success rate: 66.7 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 4

Dribbles ball lost: 2

Dribbles success rate: 66.7 per cent

Free kicks won: 2

Free kicks conceded: 0

Offside: 0

Headers: 13

Tackles: 1

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 8

Yellow cards: 0.

Final summary: The failure to deliver one cross all match is a fairly disappointing statistic from a right-wing back and indicates how far back Leigh Wood played against Kidderminster. Rarely operating in the final third of the pitch, Wood found his second start in four days after a four-month lay-off difficult especially in an unfamiliar position. A return of one tackle in 90 minutes is also surprising but the 20-year-old's distribution and ball retention was generally good.

Updated: 10:22 Monday, March 08, 2004