WILL the real York City please stand up?

The season is only three matches old but already we have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly.

At Bootham Crescent last night the good, sometimes approaching excellent, made a welcome first-half appearance.

Unfortunately, as at Chesterfield on the opening day of the season, the bad reappeared for second-half to leave a sour taste in the mouths of supporters.

Positives should be hard to find when your side is on the end of a 5-1 defeat.

But the statistics make telling reading - Stoke had five shots on target and scored five goals. City matched the Potters in attempts but scored just once.

For much of the first half City passed the ball better than their Second Division opponents and were sharper, hungrier, snappier from back to front.

Despite falling behind to a ninth minute goal, the first 45 minutes saw if not exactly normal service resumed - just what is City's true standard? - then optimism renewed.

Whether that was down to the change in personnel - four new faces from that which lost to Cheltenham so meekly - or formation, a revert back to 4-4-2 from 5-3-2, who knows?

But the Minstermen looked far more comfortable and better balanced.

Only 22 seconds had gone when Darren Edmondson, playing in midfield as opposed to wing-back, had Stoke goalkeeper Carl Muggleton at full stretch with a testing drive.

City were so transformed from their abject performance of Saturday that it was a cruel blow when Stoke took the lead from a gaffe by young Russ Howarth.

The City teenager fumbled Graham Fenton's cross and Robert Heath was on hand to knock the lose ball home for the softest of goals.

Hopes temporarily quashed on the terraces, City failed to let the blow dampen their spirits.

David McNiven, making his first full debut, laid the ball off to Steve Agnew whose curling effort was tipped around the post by Muggleton as Stoke looked decidedly second-best.

Up front, Duffield and McNiven, in particular, were industrious, offering the long sought after stickability for City's too often overworked midfield and defence.

Kevin Hulme and Steve Agnew worked tirelessly in the middle of the park while Mark Sertori looked to have Paul Connor nestling in his back pocket.

The applause coming from the stands recognised City's endeavour, the passing to feet and the switching of play.

Confidence soaring, McNiven tried a delicate chip from a tight angle that had Muggleton backtracking if not exactly stretched before a multitude of passes saw Agnew cut the ball back for Edmondson, who was unlucky to see his goal-bound shot charged down bravely by Brynjar Gunnarsson.

Then, as at Saltergate, the half-time whistle was blown and so to were City's chances of progressing in this year's Worthington Cup.

Within two minutes of the restart Stoke had doubled their advantage as Fenton galloped away down the left and crossed to hand Connor the simplest of tap-ins at the far post.

City gave themselves hope almost immediately when Grah-am Potter, whose initial corner was cleared, centred again.

The ball fell to Barry Jones on the edge of the area and the City right-back lashed home a 20-yard effort over Muggleton, and with his left foot too.

Hopes of a stirring comeback proved a false dawn however as Fenton smashed an effort against the cross bar then raced onto Heath's ball forward down the right.

City appealed for offside as the former Leicester and Blackburn striker strode away down the right and crossed for a gleeful Connor, who doubled his tally for the night with another simple tap-in.

City's legs suddenly looked weary, heads drooped, the crisp passing of the first-half all but disappeared and City's previously stoic defence became shambolic.

Henrik Risom's corner was headed goal-wards by Connor but was denied his hat-trick by a good save from Howarth, only for the ball to bounce up kindly for substitute Chris Iwelumo who nodded home.

City found the back of the Potters' net again when Hulme challenged Muggleton for Jones' sliced up 'n' under but all too predictably referee Uriah Rennie disallowed the goal for a foul on the Stoke 'keeper.

A swift break by Clive Clarke finished with Conner curling an effort just wide before Fenton twisted and turned then drove a shot across the face of the City goal

Another set-piece saw Stoke grab their fifth and final goal for the night when Iwelumo's presence seemed to unease the City defence at Risom's free-kick.

The ball was cleared only as far as James O'Conner on the edge of the City penalty area and the waspish midfielder fired home a half-hearted effort through a crowd of players.

PICTURE: FIRING IN: York City left-back Wayne Hall slams the ball into the Stoke danger zone

Pictures: Paul Baker

City Match Facts

Worthington Cup First round, first leg Tuesday, August 22, 2000

York City 1, Stoke City 5

York City

Scorers: Jones 49 mins

YORK CITY:Russ Howarth 6, Darren Edmondson 5 (Lee Bullock 79mins), Wayne Hall 8, Barry Jones 7, Mark Sertori 7, Gary Hobson 6, Kevin Hulme 7, Steve Agnew 7, Peter Duffield 6, David McNiven 7, Graham Potter 6 (Barry Conlon 69mins, 5)

Subs, not used: John Collinson, Colin Alcide, Christian Fox

Bookings: Hobson, 40mins, foul

Sendings-off: None

Stoke City

Scorers: Heath 10 mins, Connor 47 59 Iwelumo 70 O'Conner 80

STOKE CITY: Carl Muggleton, Ben Petty, Nicky Mohan, Brynjar Gunnarsson, Tony Dorigo (Chris Iwelumo 69mins), Robert Heath, Henrik Risom, James O'Conner, Stefan Thordarson (Clive Clarke 61mins), Graham Fenton, Paul Connor

Subs, not used: Gavin Ward, Wayne thomas, Matthew Bullock

Bookings: None

Sendings-off: None

Evening Press/Unique Pub Man of the Match: Wayne Hall

The trusty defender's first start under Terry Dolan and rarely put a foot wrong, defensively or going forward

Match Stats

York City

Half-time 0

Corners 7

Shots on target 6

Fouls committed 13

Stoke City

Half-time 1

Corners 7

Shots on target 6

Fouls committed 14

Attendance: 2,035

Referee: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)

City's next match: v Carlisle United (Nationwide League - Division Three)

at Brunton Park, Friday, August 25, 2000. Kick-off 7.45pm