SECURITY is always foremost in the mind of any self-respecting caretaker and York City rarely looked like being breached during the first game of Sam Collins’ temporary tenure.

Brackley, who started the afternoon as National League North’s joint-top scorers, did not muster a single goal attempt of any description during the second half of a 0-0 draw at St James Park, as they failed to unlock a well-organised visiting team.

The Minstermen, meanwhile, couldn’t quite find the right key to open up a defence that was the division’s best last term and is still led by imposing skipper Gareth Dean.

But, at the other end of the pitch, Joe Tait was just as inspirational as City’s captain, having assumed the armband from Russ Penn, who had carried out the duty for the previous two games during Sean Newton’s absence.

That wasn’t the only bold move made by Collins, who made his presence felt as he found himself in a position he fulfilled three times at former club Hartlepool, having admitted he would be interested in staying in situ this time around.

The ex-Hull City and Huddersfield defender also handed 18-year-old rookie Fergus McAughtrie – son of former City centre-back Dave – his senior debut on the left wing, while Josh Law and David Ferguson were brought back in from the cold for their first starts of the campaign.

Finally, a flexible 4-3-3 formation replaced Martin Gray’s favoured 4-4-2 system, with full-backs Kallum Griffiths and Ferguson encouraged to bomb on, centre-halves Tait and Hamza Bencherif instructed to play out from the back and occupy wide positions when keeper Adam Bartlett had the ball, while midfield trio Penn, Law and Simon Heslop filled in the area they had vacated.

Tactically, it was an astute approach and caught the hosts unawares.

In an era of copycat coaching, it was also refreshing to learn of Collins’ novel idea of changing skipper if circumstance dictated that would get the most out of the designated individual.

It certainly worked in Northamptonshire where, rather than sulking, Penn performed as if there were two captains on the pitch, taking the responsibility to get on the ball and drive the team forward.

Tait, meanwhile, was not afraid to lecture the man he succeeded despite the latter’s considerable Football League pedigree when both men contested an aerial ball.

Seasoned campaigner Penn wouldn’t have minded that interaction either and will have taken it in the manner intended - as a sign of Tait’s willingness to win.

The performance wasn’t perfect, with City only managing two on-target attempts in as many first-half minutes - from McAughtrie and Penn - during the entire 90 minutes.

Following Jon Parkin’s withdrawal just past the hour mark, the visitors’ potency visibly diminished further and the Minstermen are still to net this term when the 36-year-old veteran isn’t on the pitch.

When he’s on it, the likes of Macaulay Langstaff, Jake Wright and McAughtrie must also demonstrate an intuition to latch on to his clever flicks.

But, as a first audition for the lead role, Collins made a decent impression. The first chance of the afternoon – just four minutes in – owed everything to the Minstermen’s new onus on patient possession play, with Penn eventually releasing Ferguson down the left with a sweeping diagonal ball.

He then exchanged passes with Parkin before seeing his 15-yard shot deflected away from goal.

Tait, looking assured with the ball, then swung in an inviting right-wing cross that Parkin couldn’t quite manage to direct on target at the far post.

Home midfielder James Armson’s curling ball in was then routinely gathered by Bartlett, while a first-time, deflected 20-yard Parkin effort sailed just over following Langstaff’s lay-off.

City did go on to survive a 17th-minute scare when Shepherd Murombedzi lobbed over a vacated visitors’ goal from the edge of the box after Glenn Walker's cross had been punched out by Bartlett Adam Walker also sliced wide from 20 yards and Armson curled off target from a similar distance following his untracked forward surge after Matt Lowe had made a timely interception in his own half.

Saints keeper Danny Lewis was then called upon twice in quick succession.

First, on 28 minutes, McAughtrie, who was following in a City tradition of father-and-son duos that also includes Bobby and Josh Mimms, Neil and Alan Woods and Ian and Martin Butler, dashed into a shooting position 25 yards out and his clean strike was tipped around his right-hand post by Lewis.

Then, Penn had an effort from just outside the penalty area that was well gathered by the Brackley net-minder.

Bartlett was less convincing dealing with a home corner on the half-hour mark, but Dean subsequently headed tamely into his arms.

A purposeful forward charge by Penn shortly afterwards ended with a 20-yard drive that flashed wide and Langstaff was also off target from the same position.

After Heslop’s ambitious 35-yard strike dipped over, Tait went on to kick away a goal-bound Armson attempt after he had sidestepped Bencherif’s challenge.

On the stroke of half-time, meanwhile, Penn fired against the roof of the stand from range after a McAughtrie lay-off.

The tempo of the second half considerably dropped, which is an issue Collins will look to address against Blyth, but his new charges still created the only two opportunities after the interval.

On 71 minutes, Law curled over a free kick, won by substitute Jordan Burrow, and, in stoppage time, the former then swung in a set-piece that saw Bencherif’s header bounce wide.

The result meant Collins managed to keep a clean sheet in his maiden away game just 11 days after his predecessor Martin Gray had recorded a first shut-out on the road during his ten-and-a-half month tenure at Ashton.

City ratings

Adam Bartlett 6

Kallum Griffiths 7

Joe Tait 8

Hamza Bencherif 7

David Ferguson 7

Russ Penn 8

Josh Law 7

Simon Heslop 7

Macaulay Langstaff 6

Jon Parkin 7

Fergus McAughtrie 8

Substitutes: Wes York 6 (for Langstaff, 61), Jordan Burrow 6 (for Langstaff, 61), Jake Wright (for McAughtrie, 84).

Subs not used: Tom Allan, Ryan Whitley.

Star man: Tait - excellent attitude and made several important blocks and interceptions

Brackley: Danny Lewis, Matt Lowe, Gareth Dean, Connor Hall, Connor Franklin, Glenn Walker (Ellis Myles, 82), Shepherd Murombezi (Luke Fairlamb, 67), Shane Byrne, James Armson, Adam Walker, Lee Ndlovu (Gregg Smith, 82). Subs not used: Luke Graham, Daniel Nti.

Brackley star man: Dean – always an uncompromising foe

Referee: Tom Parsons: 8/10 – very little cause for complaint all afternoon

Booked: Lowe 34, Parkin 55, Smith 90

Sent off: None

Attendance: 580

Shots on target: Brackley 3, City 2

Shots off target: Brackley 3, City 9

Corners: Brackley 4, City 4

Fouls conceded: Brackley 14, City 13

Offside: Brackley 0, City 1