YORK City boss Martin Gray left Kidderminster feeling positive despite his team being knocked out of the FA Trophy 2-1.

The Minstermen’s defence of the trophy ended at the first-round stage after substitute Amari Morgan-Smith’s second-half reply could not turn the tables following two home goals in as many minutes from James Pearson and Emmanuel Sonupe.

But Gray hailed the visitors’ performance after the break as the best during his ten-match tenure, with strong stoppage-time efforts from Daniel Rowe and Jon Parkin the last of several close attempts to force a replay.

It was a display that Gray also felt bodes well for future progress as City look to improve on their disappointing National League North position of tenth in the table.

Admitting that patience might be necessary as he continues to instill his methods into the club, the City chief said: “It was a competition that we wanted to go as far in as we could, having won it at Wembley last season, so it was very disappointing not to get something out of the game.

“There wasn’t an awful lot in the first half before a minute of madness after (David) Ferguson had a great chance to put us 1-0 up. Instead, we went 2-0 down.

“The second goal was a bit unfortunate and we should have committed a foul and taken a booking to stop the ball ending up where it did. Sometimes, you have to manage a game like that.

“But I asked the players to show character, be brave on the ball and be better off it at half-time and the second half was probably the best performance we’ve put in since I came here. Some of our play against the best footballing team in the division deserved better than we got.

“I thought we could have also had a penalty for handball and we’ve got to be positive. We’re putting a lot of work into the club and we’ll see the results of that going forward.

“We’re trying to change the style of play and the mentality of players in the club and that takes time, so we’ve got to be patient. The second-half performance was what we want and, if we maintain that standard, we will get results.”

Gray went on to point out that the team benefitted from the changes that were made to during the second period, when marksman Morgan-Smith and Aidan Connolly were introduced from the bench.

“The subs came on and made us better,” the former Darlington manager declared. “Amari Morgan-Smith gave us good energy and Aidan Connolly was excellent.

“Ideally, you want Amari to start games the way he finishes them when he comes on as a sub but, along with Aidan, they make an impact when they come off the bench and they brought a bit more quality.”

Loan singings Alex Pattison and Sean McAllister, meanwhile, were both given their full debuts with the former completing a full 90 minutes and the latter replaced just after the hour mark, following his long period on the sidelines following groin and ankle problems.

On their first run-outs in City colours, Gray added: “It was Alex’s first game in senior football and his energy helped get us up the pitch. He’s a very direct player and the keeper made two good saves from him.

“It was a really good, strong debut from him, while Sean McAllister will get better with games, but he still showed composure to deal with balls in tight areas.”

Skipper Sean Newton also had to be withdrawn after 42 minutes following an earlier knock, with Gray revealing: “He’s got a badly swollen ankle.”

Off the pitch, City have made two more additions to their coaching staff.

Mark Bell is the new part-time goalkeeper coach and Sean Gregan is coaching the defence on the same basis.

Defending the decision to further expand his backroom team, Gray went on to reveal that he is covering matchday analyst Brian Atkinson’s salary out of his own pockets.

“Sean Gregan is with us as a part-time defensive coach and he comes in one day a week, like Brian Atkinson, whose wages I pay,” Gray outlined.