YORK City boss Sam Collins is looking for his team to improve their defensive standards at Southport on Saturday.

The Minstermen only conceded five goals in their opening eight matches of the campaign but have shipped seven in their last three National League North outings against Kidderminster (0-3), Guiseley (4-2) and Nuneaton (2-2).

And, despite last weekend’s FA Cup visitors St Ives Town not mustering a single on-target attempt, Collins was also disturbed by the number of free kicks his team conceded in dangerous areas – an unwanted habit that would be less likely to go unpunished against a lofty Southport side.

Speaking ahead of his first game as permanent City chief, Collins said: “We’ve been a little bit loose in certain positions and, whilst it’s hard to get everything to click at once and we’re still a little bit of a work in progress, you have to be well-organised at all times, which means never switching off and communicating well. Attacking wise, the players have taken on board the way we want to play, but we’ve got to get the balance right and we’ve been doing more work on the defensive side of the game this week, because we’ve got to be hard to beat and not too open to a counter attack.

“Southport are also quite a big team with about seven or eight players over six foot, so we’ve got to deal with that and not give as many free kicks away as we did against St Ives. Southport will put us under pressure with the way they play, so we’ve got to be solid, disciplined and aggressive in how we defend.

“If we don’t win the first ball against them, we’ve got to make sure we win the second and we’ve worked on that because, if we really knuckle down in that respect, it will help us become really hard to beat.”

City might need to contend with the absence of skipper Joe Tait at the back, however, due to the tight hamstring muscle that saw him withdrawn in the first half against St Ives.

Collins is expecting few surprises, meanwhile, in the second-bottom hosts’ starting line-up, reasoning: “They have kept the same team for the last four games and played the same formation, so I’m not sure they can change it too much with the size of their squad but, as Nuneaton showed, we will need to be right at it to get the win, because they’ve got some good players.

“Jason Gilchrist was one of the leading scorers in the division last season, but he’s on the bench. Every team also has their own different style of play at this level, but we know we have a squad that can adapt to any situation.”

City have drawn all three of their away contests under Collins and the former Hull and Huddersfield defender now wants to see his team attack with the same venom on the road that has seen them rattle in a dozen goals during their last three home games.

Forwards Jordan Burrow (four), Macaulay Langstaff (one) and Jake Wright (one) have all contributed to that tally, whilst, in between, the latter and Jon Parkin were on target at Nuneaton, with Collins admitting: “Getting the goalscoring to be more balanced out is a really big thing that I’m pleased about, because I know how reliant on Jon the team was before.

“But we’ve maybe been a bit more cautious in away games and waited to see what the home team do, rather than us dominating the ball like we did at Brackley (during the 0-0 draw in August). We should have been more ruthless there, but they couldn’t get the ball off us at times and we’ve got to try and turn these points into three points.”