YORK City lit up a damp, miserable grey day at Layer Road with one of their brightest performances of a so-far patchy season

That City are still in this competition would have been cause enough for celebration prior to kick-off. On paper, Colchester could not have offered a sterner first round test.

And yet it was the Second Division outfit, not City, who survived, scraped and clung-on to fight another FA Cup day.

For long spells, City looked a class above their higher-division hosts so that come the final whistle no one at Layer Road, not even the most ardent of United fan, would have begrudged City the triumph their play deserved.

And therein lies the only nagging disappointment, the only real cause for criticism; that the Minstermen did not claim the win.

It must be hoped then that they do not come to rue the chances they missed because chances they certainly had in a consummate, professional display that balanced impeccably organisation with flair, defensive solidity with menace.

Darren Edmondson's omission from the team lead to a formation shake-up with Chris Smith recalled to the side that lined-up with three centre-backs and two wing-backs

The change certainly gave the City back-line an added steel.

But unlike previous occasions when City have felt it necessary to adopt such a tactic, this time out - with strikers Michael Proctor and Lee Nogan showing all the hunger of a starving tiger chasing prey - crucially their attacking threat was not sacrificed.

In the first-half, it was hardly a see-saw, ding-dong cup battle - City's excellently organised defence and master-plan saw to that - but it was intriguing all the same.

Colchester perhaps shaded possession and for a spell midway through the first-half it looked only a matter of time before the red wall would crack.

Their clearest sight of goal came on 12 minutes.

Kem Izzet nutmegged Mark Maley then whipped in a delightful cross that Micky Stockwell could only stoop and direct on to the crossbar.

For a time thereafter, Colchester enjoyed the ascendancy and it took some important last ditch and superbly timed tackles from Chris Brass and Chris Smith to keep the scores level.

However, the Minstermen fathomed chances of their own - they indeed were the only team to have a shot on target in that first - and by the end of the opening 45 minutes, with confidence seeping through the red ranks, they looked the most threatening.

City's prized double act of Proctor and Nogan were particularly proving nuisances with their work-rate and intelligent use of the ball.

City's double-barrelled attack carved out more than decent sightings of goal, the first saw Proctor shooting just wide from the edge of the area from Nogan's flick before the compliment was repaid and Proctor's shot from 12 yards at least forced a save from Andy Woodman

If confidence was seeping through Minstermen veins at half-time, it was positively surging in the second.

Nick Richardson, a half-time substitute for Maley, set the agenda with a terrific 40-yard pass that dropped over the shoulder of Proctor, his near post snap-shot pushed around the upright by Woodman.

Eight minutes later, Proctor skipped away down the left. His cross was headed away by Scott Fitzgerald but only as far as Lee Bullock, who steadied himself and tried to pick his spot but could only roll the ball agonisingly wide.

Scott McGleish flicked a header on to the crossbar in a rare sight of the City goal for United and while it was a warning for the Minstermen it hardly had the alarm bells ringing.

Indeed, as City's defence grew in stature and looked more assured as the tie wore on, it was City who continued to possess the greater cut and thrust in attack.

Nogan spurned two good chances from inside the 18-yard box wide before a late flurry could have seen City rack up a nap hand of goals following wave after wave of red forays.

The best of the fistful fell to Proctor, who weaved his way through the Colchester defence with a stunning solo run from just inside the United half before rolling the ball just the wrong side of the upright.

It would have been a goal of the season contender had it gone in.

It would also have been a fitting and just end to a fine City performance.

Fact file:

Colchester: Woodman, Duguid, Fitzgerald, R Johnson, G Johnson, Keith, Izzet (Dunne 37m), Pinault, Stockwell (Morgan 70m), McGleish, Rapley

Subs, not used: Brown, Opara, White

Bookings: G Johnson 6m (foul)

Sent-off: None

City: Fettis 7, Smith 7, Hobson 7, Hocking 8, Maley 6 (Richardson 46m, 7), Cooper 7, Brass 7, Bullock 7, Potter 7, Nogan 8, Proctor 8

Subs, not used: Howarth, Darlow, Thompson, Stamp

Bookings: None

Sent-off: None

Attendance: 3,350

Ref: Steve Baines (Chesterfield)