DREADFUL York City were given a 5-1 Boxing Day thumping at Darlington.

First-half goals from Andrew Nelson and Harvey Saunders put the hosts in the ascendancy prior to a mindless red card for on-loan Rotherham winger Alex Bray on the stroke of half-time.

Nelson went on to convert his second penalty of the game after the restart, before Jordan Nicholson added a fourth goal.

Sub Jake Wright replied for City with almost his first touch, but Liam Hughes rounded off an appalling afternoon for the visitors on 80 minutes.

Darlington started the game with determination and Nicholson forced Adam Bartlett to push a 20-yard shot around his left-hand upright on nine minutes after the home attacker had muscled Adriano Moke off the ball.

The visitors responded with a curling Josh Law free kick that hit the outside of a surprised Jonny Maddison’s near post.

But Bartlett went on to make a breath-taking double save to keep his side level on the quarter-hour mark.

First, the former Quakers keeper demonstrated outstanding reflexes to deny Saunders after the ball fell fortuitously to the home forward in front of goal.

He then reacted smartly to push away Nicholson’s follow-up attempt before Nelson fired narrowly wide with a third opportunity.

City might still have forged in front on 19 minutes, however, when Maddison dropped a Nathan Dyer cross, but Bray could only hook a 12-yard effort against the outside of his right-hand post.

At the other end, pressure led to a Romal Palmer free kick that was headed wide by Hughes, while Nicholson dragged a 20-yard shot off target after Joe Ironside had given away possession cheaply in his own half.

Home attacks continued as Nelson cut inside Dyer on the left flank before calling Bartlett into action at his near post with a low drive that skidded up off the surface.

Buoyed by that effort, Nelson went on to lure teenage full-back Dyer into more naïve defensive play, as he was turned too easily by the left winger and clipped his heels in desperate pursuit.

Nelson subsequently made no mistake with the subsequent penalty, converting high to Bartlett’s right to open the scoring just past the half-hour mark.

That lead was doubled six minutes later when Palmer lost Law down the right wing and, after Bartlett made another superb instinctive save to deny Nicholson, Saunders followed up to pounce from six yards.

A dismal half for Sam Collins’ men was then compounded by terrible ill-discipline from Bray on the stroke of half-time.

Having had his name taken on 40 minutes for a high challenge on Darlington right-back Luke Trotman, he was dismissed for a second bookable offence when he crashed into Tom Elliott in the home half after being the victim himself of a yellow-carded tackle by Palmer just seconds earlier.

The Quakers made it 3-0 on 52 minutes following a controversial penalty decision.

Dan Parslow appeared to be nudged off balance by Saunders as he challenged for an aerial ball and Tait, who had made the basic mistake of stopping and holding his hand up instead of covering for his team-mate, was penalised as the Darlington forward threw himself dramatically to the floor despite minimal, if any contact, from the City defender.

The resulting spot kick was calmly sidefooted to Bartlett's left by Nelson as the City keeper dived in the opposite direction.

A rare away raid then saw Jordan Burrow volley wide from a Wes York cross, before an off-balance Nicholson shot wide from 15 yards and Saunders’ low shot was pushed around his near post by Bartlett.

As the visitors continued to struggle, Will Smith’s header rattled the crossbar from an Elliott corner and it was 4-0 just past the hour mark after Saunders hooked the ball forward and, with Bartlett hesitating as he came out of his goal, Nicholson lobbed the ball into inviting net from 20 yards Jake Wright was subsequently introduced by Collins and scored within three minutes, racing on to debutant Liam Agnew’s ball through the left channel before shooting across goal into the bottom corner from ten yards.

The former Harrogate Town striker also saw a diagonal drive saved at his near post by Maddison, but the hosts made it 5-1 on 80 minutes when Hughes headed in off the far post from a Terrence Galbraith right-wing corner.

City Ratings

Adam Bartlett 8

Nathan Dyer 3

Dan Parslow 5

Joe Tait 2 

David Ferguson 4

Wes York 2

Josh Law 2

Adriano Moke 2

Alex Bray 2

Jordan Burrow 4

Joe Ironside 2

Substitutes: Liam Agnew 5 (for Ironside, 46), Jake Wright 6 (for York, 63), Sean Newton (for Ferguson, 76).

Subs not used: Kennedy Digie, Jon Parkin.

Star man: Bartlett – prevented a heavier defeat with string of superb saves

Darlington: Jonny Maddison, Luke Trotman, Liam Hughes, Terrence Galbraith, Ben O’Hanlon, Tom Elliott, Will Smith, Romal Palmer, Jordan Nicholson, Harvey Saunders (Stephen Thompson, 86), Andrew Nelson (Alex Wollerton, 79). Subs not used: Cameron Hall, Alex Henshall, Jonathan Burn.

Referee: John Matthews 6/10

Booked: Nicholson 17, Bray 40, Palmer 44, Moke 64, Galbraith 71.

Sent off: Bray 45

Attendance: 2,286

Shots on target: Darlington 13, City 5

Shots off target: Darlington 5, City 1

Corners: Darlington 6, City 0

Fouls conceded: Darlington 10, City 13

Offside: Darlington 6, City 1