1 City are a better team in possession than they are out of it

There have been relatively recent examples of successful Minstermen teams who were arguably stronger without the ball than they were with it. Martin Foyle and Nigel Worthington’s play-off qualifying outfits of 2010 and 2014 both relied heavily on 1-0 victories, whose foundation was built largely on two impenetrable defensive and midfield banks in their favoured 4-4-2 formations.

Discipline and shape were the key watchwords and, at the other end of the pitch, Richard Brodie and Michael Coulson could normally be relied upon to provide one respective moment of magic to win matches. Sam Collins’ current charges are still very much a work in progress in terms of their off-the-ball intelligence with the likes of Alex Harris, Alex Bray and Adriano Moke all more comfortable driving forward in possession than they are when asked to pick up runners if the opposition are pressing.

This was evidenced starkly in the opening 45 minutes against FC United when the away team seemingly had three or four options on the ball every time they looked to play through the middle of the park. With Collins rightly pointing out afterwards that his side look a better team when they are playing with urgency and getting on the front foot, the second period was improved as City turned the possession stats on their head and began to dictate matters to the extent that the visitors, who had mustered 12 goal attempts before the interval, only went on to manage one more effort – Stephen O’Halloran’s powerful header from a corner.

The dangers of City adopting a passive approach have previously been evidenced during the 3-0 defeat at Altrincham and setting a fast tempo and staying on top in the possession stakes will hold the key to avoiding future humiliations and the first-half struggle on Saturday.

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2 Full-time status might finally be starting to count against semi-professional opponents

As much as City can claim some credit for the contrasting performances of FC United from the first half to the second, the part-time away team undeniably ran out of steam too. Neil Reynolds’ men could not maintain the pace they had set in the opening 45 minutes when players were darting around all over the pitch and stocky 21-year-old leading marksman Kurt Willoughby was causing problems with his desire to drop deep and seek the ball.

The seven-goal striker’s threat completely diminished after the break and, just taking a glance at FC United’s scoring patterns this season, provides telling evidence of a team that finds it difficult to last the distance. Twelve of the Broadhurst Park club’s last 13 league goals – a run stretching back to the first weekend in September – have been registered before the half-time oranges and, for once, the Minstermen looked capable of capitalising on their opponents’ fatigue.

Former boss Martin Gray always made a big play of the significant fitness advantage full-time status should guarantee later in contests over those sides combining day jobs with training two days a week. But, frustratingly, not since Gary Mills’ newly-relegated team looked to have caught Bradford Park Avenue at an opportune time with a 5-0 triumph one week into last season, the benefits of operating as a fully professional outfit have rarely been witnessed.

Encouragingly, this game suggested there is a hope that might now change.

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3 Alex Harris has a precious ability to unlock opposition back-lines

Ten players have started more games for City this season than the former Scottish Cup finalist, but Harris’ ability to create opportunities from central areas of the pitch is unmatched in City’s squad and, with five assists to his name, he only lies one behind Jordan Burrow in terms of goals created this term. Burrow arguably should have ensured his team-mate at least drew level with him at the top of that leader-board too, having been released through the right and left channels in turn by precise through balls, only to take early shots when he might have been better served getting his head down and driving closer to goal.

The number-10 position, filled by Harris in the first half, can be a bit of a luxury and, at times, compromised the team’s defensive shape, but the ex-Hibernian attacker clearly possesses the ability to open up National League North defences and can spot gaps to exploit himself too, as he did for the hosts’ 35th-minute opening goal – his second in City colours.

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4 Kennedy Digie is still learning when and when not to charge out of defence

With his long-legged strides making yard coverage look effortless, it is easy to see why the 21-year-old defender is being encouraged by manager Sam Collins to carry the ball forward and start attacks. Having played in midfield for Hednesford before, he is no stranger to having the ball at his feet either.

However, when you’re the last line of defence, you must quickly learn the appropriate times to surge forward and when it is prudent to take another course of action. If there is an open field in front of him, along with a number of willing team-mates as potential possession recipients, then Digie can be a fruitful starter of attacking moves for the Minstermen.

But, not for the first time since his arrival last month, Digie looked to charge forward against FC United with too much opposition traffic to negotiate, leading him to surrender possession in a dangerous area of the pitch. The mistake went unpunished and, hopefully, such errors will not result in the muscular centre half going into his shell or become dissuaded from such positive play.

Ideally, instead, it will just help his learning process in terms on when and when not to carry the game to rival sides.

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5 FC United of Manchester’s fans are a credit to their club

Only founded in 2005 by Manchester United fans, who were opposed to the Glazer family’s Old Trafford takeover, the protest club are perhaps surprisingly still going strong 13 years later. An impressive away following of 485 converged on Bootham Crescent – the biggest travelling contingent this season, beating by 29 the number former Championship side Stockport managed for the midweek August contest this term.

In fact, the last club to bring more supporters were Harrogate, for whom 515 made the short 20-mile trip as their team boosted their promotion bid with a 2-0 April triumph. A couple of months earlier, meanwhile, FC United’s more-celebrated neighbours and champions-elect Salford City only took 341 supporters to North Yorkshire.

The noise made by FC United’s fans, whether it be chants about Eric Cantona or other well-known 1990s’ terrace ditties, also helped generate a superior match-day atmosphere than is often the case at sixth-tier level.