FOOTBALL has a funny way of throwing up a googly every now and then.

Seeing York City third in the table - until 1.45pm today at the very least - may have been unexpected a few months ago. Add to that 90 minutes of entertaining play, another game with City on top throughout, and yet another raft of chances and you might think you're away with the fairies.

The fact that the Minstermen recorded their third win of the season last night wasn't the surprise but the source might have been.

Clayton Donaldson looked seconds away from a substitution when he picked the ball up on the halfway line and raced two Cambridge United defenders down the left wing, ignored the offside Andy Bishop and slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from outside the box.

It was a beauty. An absolute stunner.

And it was a good goal to win a match with - which was a good job, really, considering the number of chances that went by the wayside in what was essentially a 1-0 battering of Cambridge United.

Admittedly the physical onslaught came from the visitors. But in terms of possession, domination and sheer creative presence, it was City all the way.

To say the three midfield amigos of Emmanuel Panther (el powerhouse), Darren Dunning (el terrier) and Mark Convery (el creativo) are benefiting from lining up together in every game so far is a bit of an understatement.

Panther and Dunning do everything in their power to get the ball, pick the pass and fire it up to Convery who freezes time and the opposing defenders while he darts through them with some neat footwork or coolly selects the perfect through-ball to set Donaldson off on a run.

A chipped Convery-Donaldson one-two after 25 minutes, for example, had Convery cued up for a sweet volley but he mis-hit it.

This wasn't all one-way traffic though. City goalkeeper Chris Porter would have done little to assuage his crit-ics with an early John Turner cross being flapped at and dropped in the middle of the danger zone on four minutes, but he was in the right place at the right time to hold a potential equalising header by David Bridges on the hour.

Skipper Mark Hotte also had his moments, notably after being beaten for pace by Turner early on and Bridges followed up with a shot and a half. Hotte's head in hands response was followed by a mainly light-hearted gesture to warming-up sub James Dudgeon that he might be on sooner than he thought.

Visiting 'keeper Darren Behcet - on-loan from West Ham - would have been able to do little to stop a Dunning belter just after half-time had it stayed on target, and the chances just kept on coming in a second half punctuated by slick passing, good movement and a string of chances.

Darren Mansaram almost scored with his first touch with a dramatic horizontal scissor-kick from a Donaldson cross on 78 minutes.

He later rounded off the game with an apparent rabbit-in-headlights moment. With only the keeper and a wide expanse of net on either side bearing down on him, he passed the ball straight into the 'keeper's arms when a second goal on the board was the only just reward for some classy footwork by Bishop to create the cross.

Maybe the sense of expectancy got a bit too much for him.

York City 1 (Donaldson 54), Cambridge 0

Porter 6, Price 7, McGurk 7, Hotte 6, Peat 8, Bishop 8, Panther 8, Convery 8 (Yalcin 82m), Dunning 9, O'Neill 6 (Mansaram 76m), Donaldson 7

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

Subs (not used): Dudgeon, Stewart, Afandiyev

Star man: Dunning - Driving force in the midfield, tackling back and going forward.

Cambridge United: Behcet, Gleeson, Duncan, Peters, Harkness, Smith (Onibuje 72), Bridges, Hanlon, Angel (Okai 76), Turner, Duffy (Nolan 84). Subs (unused): Robbins, Quinton

Yellow cards: O'Neill 42, Gleeson 90

Referee: David Richardson (Halifax). Rating: Got in the way too much and swung between wild inconsistency and being irritatingly pedantic.

Attendance: 2,666.

Weather watch: Mild pleasant late summer evening.

Game breaker: Donaldson's sensational solo goal.

Match rating: A physical, but good footballing encounter. Played at a high tempo with full commitment and exciting to watch.

McEwan's verdict: "I actually think we deserved the three points.

"They are a very experienced side that's just come out of the League and we matched them across the park.

"The whole team played well and I was really proud of them."

Player watch

Andy Bishop

Shots on target: 0

Shots off target: 0

Passes to own player: 8

Passes to opposition: 2

Crosses to own player: 1

Crosses to opposition: 1

Pass success rate: 75 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 4 Dribbles ball lost: 5

Dribble success rate: 44.4 per cent

Fouls won: 1 Fouls conceded: 1 Headers: 8 Tackles: 0

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 0

Bookings: 0

Final summary: Andy Bishop did not have any shots but his game was very much in a supporting and creative role as shown by the high pass success rate.

Poor control let him down at times but he had strenghth in the air against a tough defence. Made an all-round solid contribution to the City victory.

Updated: 09:33 Saturday, September 03, 2005