YORK City boss Steve Watson believes people will be tipping his side as play-off “dark horses” following a third straight National League North win.

A 2-0 home triumph over bottom-of-the-table Nuneaton Borough, courtesy of second-half Wes York and Hamza Bencherif goals, saw the Minstermen move up to 12th in the standings – the club’s highest position since mid-November.

The gap to the top seven remains seven points but only Spennymoor, who have taken maximum points in their last seven league matches, are now on a longer winning steak than Watson’s men in the 22-strong division.

On a change in mentality for the team, who only ended a 13-month wait for back-to-back league successes during the current run, the ex-Gateshead manager said: “I always say you have to go out expecting to win and I think the players now believe they can win games.

“My message to them now is just to keep winning games, even if that sounds far too obvious. I dare say people are looking at York now and saying: ‘They’ve got a good squad of players and they could be dark horses’, and I hope they are doing.”

Watson did reason, however, that City’s margin of victory against troubled Nuneaton should have been larger following a first half of profligate finishing.

“We were very wasteful,” he admitted. “We created a lot of clear-cut chances in the first half and some absolute sitters really, so you’re left scratching your head at half-time wondering how it’s still 0-0.

“In training, all those shots hit the back of the net, so we just need that bit of match-day confidence, but our energy levels were good in the second half and we were more clinical. With a little bit of composure, we could have enjoyed a really big win.

“We also did well, though, to create so many opportunities against a team whose strikers were even marking our full-backs, so we had to get through two banks of five and it was a real test in trying to pick a team apart.”

Right-winger York had been the chief culprit in front of goal before breaking the deadlock just before the hour mark after jumping high to meet Paddy McLaughlin’s free kick, with Watson joking: “He needed a header because I think it was one of those days that he was never going to score with his feet.

“But he kept getting in good areas and I’ve told both him and Alex Kempster that they have to be a threat coming in off the wing in this system. You won’t always score but, if you keep getting in those positions in the middle of the goals, you’ll add to your tally.

“That’s where he was for his goal and that’s where I want him to be, and he deserved his goal for sheer persistence.”

Keeper Adam Bartlett also earned Watson’s praise after making two excellent saves from Ryan Edmunds and Josh Lundstram, which proved the visitors only on-target attempts of the match.

“It would have been a travesty if we hadn’t got all three points,” the City boss declared. “But, if you don’t take your chances, that can happen and, whilst our keeper had a relatively quiet afternoon because they hardly got in our box, they had two opportunities and he made unbelievable saves from both of them.

“Barts has had some tough days since I came here, but he’s kept his concentration to get a clean sheet for us with those two saves, so hats off to him.”

On Bencherif’s 78th-minute volleyed striker, Watson added: “It was a really good second goal and I felt more relaxed after it went in. Hamza’s a good footballer, who is calm and very good technically, as his finish showed.”

Bencherif was on as a substitute for David Mirfin, who was taken to hospital for stitches following a nasty aerial collision.

But it is hoped the on-loan Mansfield defender will be available for next weekend’s trip to Leamington with Watson explaining: “He headed the back of their player and he had a big split on his lip but he’s a tough guy and it won’t be the first time he’s had stitches to his head.”