FORMER York City striker Adam Boyes has admitted that he expected his old club to be clear at the top of the National League North table by this stage of the season.

Boyes was a member of the Bradford Park Avenue team humbled 5-0 by the Minstermen at their Horsfall Stadium home back in August.

Subsequently, he felt City would be the team to catch this term and didn’t expect his current club to be sitting one point ahead of the full-time North Yorkshire outfit in the final play-off position ahead of this afternoon’s return match.

Boyes is still backing today’s hosts to secure a top-seven spot, but he stressed that Avenue are also desperate to continue defying the bookmakers, who rated them as 40-1 outsiders for the title in pre-season.

“After that game in August, I thought York would run away with the league,” the 27-year-old forward said. “For some reason, it didn’t work out like that, but they’ve started to pick up results again under the new manager.

“It’s a big game now for both teams. They are one point behind us with a game in hand although, no matter what the result is, I still think York will get into the play-offs.

“But we are in there now and it would be brilliant if we can stay there because, at the start of the season, nobody fancied us at all. We were the favourites to go down, like (fourth-placed) Spennymoor.”

Despite now occupying a higher league place than their opponents, Bradford are also expecting another test of their promotion credentials against Martin Gray’s men although, with the division’s meanest defence on the road and an unbeaten away run of five fixtures, Boyes is not writing off the visitors’ chances of securing a result at Bootham Crescent.

In two previous trips to his old ground as an opposition player, Boyes has failed to finish on the winning team, earning a 1-1 draw for Guiseley last term, having previously been beaten 3-1 with Barrow, although he did manage to grab the consolation on that day.

Ahead of this latest meeting, he added: “It’s always nice to go back to your old club and I loved it at York. I still look out for their results and want them to do well.

“I know this game will be a tough battle. They are a team full of good players who beat us 5-0 at home, but we have improved a lot since then and seem to be better away from home.

“A lot of teams come to our place and tend to sit back and we struggle to break them down, although York didn’t – they got at us and it worked.”

The thrashing against City came during a difficult start to the season that saw Avenue lose three of their opening four games and only net twice.

But two strong spells of form – resulting in a seven-match unbeaten sequence and a hat-trick of consecutive victories, have followed.

In between, though, Mark Bower’s men suffered a mid-autumn win-less run that stretched to five fixtures and, ahead of their rematch with the Minstermen, the visitors have won three and lost three of their last seven matches.

On the team’s campaign so far, Boyes declared: “Something just seemed to click after the difficult start. We won a few games and that built confidence, so we kicked on a bit.

“We’ve still been a bit hit and miss, but a bit more hit and, when we seem to have slipped up, other teams around us have done as well. We’ve also had a steady side and, apart from a few niggly injuries, it’s been the same 11 most weeks, which has helped.”

The team’s challenge has been spearheaded by Boyes and fellow former Minsterman Oli Johnson, who have netted 12 and 14 goals respectively.

Winger Johnson, 30, has endured an injury-ravaged career, which peaked when he played for Norwich in the Championship.

He only managed seven appearances for City, having signed in the summer of 2012 after the club won promotion back into the Football League but, in his twilight days, Johnson has managed to steer clear of the treatment toom this term.

“He’s never had a run like this season for avoiding injuries and only me and him have played every game,” Boyes explained. “I think we’ve done alright and there’s a bit of a competition between us to see who can score the most goals, but it’s always about the team first.”

Midfielder Nicky Wroe, who spent the 2007/08 campaign with the Minstermen, will also captain Avenue against his old team, with Boyes pointing out: “He’s still steady away and a 7/10 every week.”

Having worked under City’s current sporting director Dave Penney, meanwhile, when he was assistant to Adam Lockwood at Guiseley last season, Boyes also believes his former team will be benefitting from the ex-Doncaster and Oldham manager’s coaching prowess.

“He took all the training sessions at Guiseley and they were always enjoyable and I’m sure the York lads feel the same now,” the Lingdale-born forward enthused.