YORK City will endure their longest run without a clean sheet for almost nine years if they fail to prevent Morecambe from scoring tomorrow night.

The Minstermen’s cruel 2-1 defeat at high-flying Southend on Saturday, following Luke Prosser’s stoppage-time winner, meant Nigel Worthington’s side have now gone ten matches since their last shut-out.

That run equals the double-figured sequence suffered by Worthington’s predecessor Gary Mills in November and December last season.

Prior to that, however, it takes a trawl back to 2004/5 to reveal a longer string of consecutive matches in which the opposition have found the net.

Back then, Chris Brass was sacked in the midst of a 13-game defensive nightmare and caretaker chief Viv Busby struggled to reverse matters during the club’s first season of Conference football.

Current boss Worthington is working fervently to address his side’s repeated failure to keep rival teams at bay and the addition of Cheltenham centre-back Keith Lowe on loan looks a step in the right direction, following his promising display at Roots Hall.

Fellow debutant Nick Pope, recruited on loan from Charlton, also performed well in goal with Michael Ingham still sidelined by his hip injury but, frustratingly, the Minstermen were once more undone by a couple of set-pieces in Essex.

One of Pope’s first duties between the sticks for his new team was to pick the ball out of his net when Southend opened the scoring in the sixth minute.

City failed to clear a Ben Coker corner and, when the ball fell to Kevan Hurst 15 yards from goal, he found plenty of time and space in the penalty box to fire a well-struck shot in off Pope’s right-hand post.

The Minstermen were then the better side for long periods of the match and claimed a deserved equaliser when Ryan Bowman, later to blot his copybook with a needless red card, levelled matters on 55 minutes.

Prior to Bowman’s dismissal, the Shrimpers had been down to ten men for almost half-an-hour after losing Hurst to a second bookable offence within two minutes of the equaliser and City had their concerned hosts on the rack.

But Bowman’s recklessness evened the numbers on 86 minutes and left-back Ben Davies was then penalised for a foul near the corner flag that saw Worthington’s men concede from a free-kick for the sixth time in eight matches after Prosser headed in from another Coker centre.

Defeat was cruel on the Minstermen with Southend having only mustered one other on-target shot all afternoon – a Barry Corr drive kept out at his near post by Pope.

In contrast, along with Bowman’s goal, the visitors hit a post, forced a double save and had a chance cleared off the line but, until City’s dead-ball deficiencies can be fully eradicated, progress is going to be difficult.

After Hurst had given Phil Brown’s men their early lead, the Minstermen responded with two long-range Luke O’Neill efforts that both landed in the second tier of a thronging home end, boosted by the offer of £5 tickets for supporters.

In between, Dan Parslow had also been stretchered off after crashing into advertising hoardings as he sliced an attempted clearance.

City recovered from that blow, however, with David McGurk and Lowe looking comfortable together at the heart of the visitors’ defence.

The pair were also causing problems at the other end of the pitch with home ’keeper Daniel Bentley called into action to parry Lowe’s downward header from a Josh Carson free-kick on 23 minutes before saving McGurk’s follow-up attempt.

A 30-yard Carson chance then drifted just wide and Bowman’s shot on the turn rebounded back into a grateful Bentley’s hands, having hit an upright after Wes Fletcher had outstripped Robert Kiernan for pace down the left flank.

The harassed hosts briefly rallied with Will Atkinson firing over from the edge of the box and Anthony Straker heading too high from a Coker cross. But Bowman went close again on the stroke of half-time, heading over from eight yards following another Fletcher centre.

He was not to be denied on 55 minutes, however, when he found an inviting net from 12 yards after Lanre Oyebanjo had challenged for possession in the home penalty box and Fletcher’s subsequent header was saved by Bentley.

Moments later, Hurst was given his marching orders after tugging at Davies’ shirt, having earlier been cautioned for his over-exuberant goal celebration.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Corr did call Pope into action on the hour but Bentley was again needed to keep out an Elliott Whitehouse effort after Pope’s quick throw had sent Carson sprinting down the left flank to tee up the chance.

On 76 minutes, Lowe’s header was cleared off the line by Straker from an O’Neill corner and Whitehouse curled over from 15 yards after Fletcher had got round the back of the Southend defence in the left channel and pulled the ball back.

When Bowman left his leg in a challenge on White after the ball had been played forward, however, the home team were given a timely boost as the game entered its final throes.

On 90 minutes, a McGurk slip sent substitute Cauley Woodrow clear but he dragged his shot wastefully across the face of Pope’s goal.

After three minutes of added-on time had been indicated by the fourth official, though, Davies was adjudged to have fouled Corr and, seconds later, Prosser climbed highest from seven yards to direct Coker’s cross into Pope’s bottom right-hand corner.

Match facts

Southend 2 (Hurst 6; Prosser 90+2), York City 1 (Bowman 55)

York City

Nick Pope 7
Showed good judgement off his line, made a smart second-half save to deny Corr and kicked well.

Luke O’Neill 8
Composed on the ball and largely got the measure of rapid adversary Straker.

Keith Lowe 8
STAR MAN – read the game with intelligence at the back and went close to a debut goal twice as well.

Daniel Parslow

Ben Davies 6
Might have dealt better with the free-kick that led to Prosser’s stoppage-time winner.

Lanre Oyebanjo 6
Made a couple of surging runs in the first half but did not always look comfortable in his wing role.

Elliott Whitehouse 7
Showed good energy to pop up in the penalty box although he might have finished better when he got there.

Lewis Montrose 7
Stayed disciplined in the middle of the park but on tenterhooks a little following his first-half booking.

Josh Carson 8
Shifted to the left flank but provided his usual attacking threat and got stronger the longer the game went on.

Ryan Bowman 6
Finished well and always looked most likely goal threat, but his red card was costly and avoidable.

Wes Fletcher 8
Worked hard for the side and his team-mates, running down the channels to trouble the hosts.

Subs: David McGurk 7 – solid (for Parslow, 16). Not used: Craig Clay, Ashley Chambers, Ryan Jarvis, Richard Cresswell, Tom Platt, Sander Puri.

Southend Utd

Daniel Bentley, John White, Luke Prosser, Robert Kiernan, Ben Coker, Marc Laird, Michael Timlin, Will Atkinson, Kevan Hurst, Barry Corr, Anthony Straker (Cauley Woodrow, 81). Subs not used: Paul Smith, Mark Phillips, Craig Reid, Jack Payne, Adam Thompson, Jack Bridge.

Star man: Bentley – called upon several times to keep his team in the game.

Referee: Darren Sheldrake (East Molesey).

Rating: 6/10 – Hurst red card was a little harsh but can be few complaints about Bowman dismissal.

Booked: Hurst 6, Montrose 40, Kiernan 46, Hurst 57, Whitehouse 62.

Sent off: Hurst 57, Bowman 86.

Attendance: 9,018 (372 from City).

Shots on target: Southend 3, City 8.

Shots off target: Southend 5, City 7.

Corners: Southend 7, City 5.

Fouls conceded: Southend 6, City 13.

Offsides: Southend 3, City 2.