YORK City manager Martin Gray lectured his players on the need for leadership and consistency following a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Alfreton Town at Bootham Crescent.

The Minstermen followed up a rousing 1-0 midweek victory against Stockport with a poor first half against Alfreton, who forged in front courtesy of two badly-conceded goals in as many minutes from Tom Denton and Curtis Bateson.

Home keeper Adam Bartlett then saved Richard Peniket’s penalty on the hour mark, before City sub Macaulay Langstaff reduced the deficit, but it only proved a consolation and an irritated Gray said: “You’re left scratching your head after going from such a strong second-half performance on Tuesday night to gifting Alfreton a two-goal start and that’s a real concern and disappointment.

“We’d done so much work on how to deal with Denton, but people didn’t take responsibility to mark him right for the first goal and we’ve had to speak in depth to certain individuals about leadership and the need for consistency in their play. The second goal was a mistake by Kallum Griffiths – there’s no hiding away from that.

“The ball went back from Adriano Moke when it might have gone forward, but Kallum still had time to deal with it. Then he slipped and it was a basic error that cost us, which you can’t do much about as manager.

“The first half against Stockport wasn’t outstanding, but we didn’t concede. In this game, we gave them something to defend and had a massive job on our hands to get something out of it.

“We’ve got to get back to that clean sheet mentality because, if you let in cheap, sloppy opportunities, you give yourself an uphill battle whatever level you’re playing at.”

Gray was also unimpressed by his team’s efforts in the opposition box, particularly at corners, where Hamza Bencherif and Jordan Burrow both failed to convert a couple of chances apiece.

Former Algerian under-20 international Bencherif has not scored now in 68 competitive matches for the Minstermen, while Burrow is yet to open his account since a summer move from Gateshead and Gray pointed out: “We had a lot of set-plays and you’ve got to take your chances from them, because we had four or five good opportunities to score.

“We’ve got to make the keeper work harder than we did in those situations because, if those balls drop to Denton, they become goals.”

Gray was encouraged, though, by the performances of subs Jon Parkin and Langstaff, who combined for the hosts’ goal, after replacing Burrow and Jake Wright.

“The two forwards gave us a bit more,” the City boss admitted. “Jon was great and the ball did not come back when he was up there.

“His header down for the goal was excellent, although Macaulay still had a lot to do and his finish was outstanding. It’s great to have four forwards challenging for places.”

Despite a smattering of boos at the interval and full-time, Gray also thanked City’s supporters for their backing.

“The fans were great, but I know that only goes so far, because it’s all about winning games,” he reasoned.

Alex Kemspter, meanwhile, limped out of the action just five minutes in, but Gray believes he could be back in contention for Tuesday night’s trip to Ashton United.

“It was a knee-to-knee collision but, hopefully, he’ll be OK,” the City boss revealed.

David Ferguson replaced Kempster on the left wing and Gray went on to suggest that position might represent the ex-England C international’s best chance of a run in the team.

“I don’t want to chop and change the back four and I think Sean Newton has been great in the first three games, so we’re looking to work with him there,” Gray explained. “David Ferguson can be a full back, but I feel he’s better going forward than playing deeper and he also gives natural balance out there, being a left-footed player.”