AS autumn makes way for winter, summer's once lingering embers feel a long way away.

For a troubled York City, August must feel a million miles away.

The vibrant football that ushered in the start of the season has long since passed and is in danger of becoming a distant memory.

Against an unimpressive Boston United, City looked far removed from the side that once threatened to steam-roller all before them.

Nervous, unconvincing, scruffy and scrappy - the effort could not be faulted but City in their current guise bare little resemblance to the side that started the season with a swagger.

This was a particularly frustrating afternoon for the Minstermen. Frustrating because their football was, for the most part, frayed.

Only in a ten-minute second half spell did City come close to repeating the quick passing to feet and movement off the ball that realised such confidence, hope and optimism.

Frustration because Boston were a side ripe for plucking. They started slowly and but for the unpredictability of the burly Bayo Akinfenwa, who was built more like a prop forward than a striker, looked decidedly average in all departments.

Frustration too, because for all the lack of flowing football from City the Minstermen still created a decent number of chances that could have ensured a comfortable win.

Jon Parkin hit the crossbar as early as the first minute with a strike from the edge of the area while Lee Bullock was denied a goal by an important header off the line by Paul Ellender.

In the second half, Lee Nogan then rattled the woodwork for a second time with a header and Ellender produced an acrobatic overhead kick to deny Richard Cooper, who tried to nod the ball into the goal from just two yards out after Boston goalkeeper Paul Bastock flapped at a Dave Merris cross.

Frustration because City did not make a dose of good fortune count.

As the referee wetted his lips in anticipation of the half-time whistle, Richard Hope punted a high ball into the Boston box and Bastock came off his line to claim.

Possibly distracted by the run of Lee Bullock, the United 'keeper dropped a clanger and the ball and Parkin fired home from eight yards.

It is said to be the perfect time to score - although when is there a bad time? - and City certainly started the second half with plenty of vim and vigour to peg Boston back.

But therein lay more frustration for the men in red.

Just as the Minstermen were building up a considerable head of steam and looked likely to double their advantage, another costly lapse of concentration in defence cost City dear.

With crosses into the box proving a bete-noir for City this season, perhaps it was an understandable determination to cut off the source.

But when three City defenders were drawn to the touchline to close down Lee Beevers it inevitably left City short of cover in the middle.

Despite all the attention, Beevers was still able to centre. Mark Ovendale in the City goal may have felt he should have come and claimed but he didn't and with few defenders on hand Simon Weatherstone was able to head into the top corner relatively unhindered.

It was a crushing blow for City, and despite there still being more than a third of the tie remaining, it was one from which they never really recovered.

Cooper's effort off the line aside, it was Boston who fashioned the better chances and certainly enjoyed more of the possession.

As the clock ticked down, the ever impressive Darren Dunning and Parkin both tried their luck from range but they were never really convincing efforts, hit in hope rather than anticipation.

It was a bit like City's performance in general.

Never look back they say but how City must wish they could find the rewind button to the start of the season.

Back then, everything looked simple. Pass and move was the York City groove and the football flowed effortlessly. Now, everything is rather forced.

Ludicrous though it sounds, perhaps City wished they hadn't started the season so well.

Certainly, it raised expectations to unwarranted levels.

The fans know there is a good side lying in wait because they've seen it.

But when it struggles to show they are now quick, perhaps too quick, to vent their frustration.

The fans moan, the players, already suffering a mini-crisis of confidence, become ever more nervous. The football disintegrates and the fans moan more.

Whether the fans need to offer their encouragement and support regardless of the performance or the players rise above the pressure, it does not matter.

The vicious circle that surfaced for the first time on Saturday has to be broken before it becomes permanent.

Tomorrow night, and the visit of Oxford United provides the perfect opportunity.

City 1 (Parkin 45); Boston 1 (Weatherstone 58)

Ovendale 5, Cooper 5, Smith 6, Brass 6, Hope 6, Merris 5, *Dunning 7, Ward 6, Bullock 6 (Crowe 67m 5), Nogan 6 (George 77m), Parkin 7.

Subs not used: Porter, Wood, Dove

Star Man: Darren Dunning. City's most consistent performer.


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

Boston: Bastock, Beevers, Hogg, Balmer, Hocking (Greaves 56m), Thompson, Bennett, Ellender, Angel (Weatherstone 35m), Jones, Akinfenwa (Duffield 78m) Subs, not used: Croudson, Greaves, Clarke

Yellow cards: Hocking 52, Dunning 88

Red cards: None

Referee: Tony Leake (Lancashire)

Rating: Some inconsistent decisions

Attendance: 3,190

Weather watch: Crisp and clear

Game breaker: Another lack of concentration at the back cost City dear

Match rating: A frustrating afternoon

Updated: 11:47 Monday, October 20, 2003