YORK City boss Steve Watson admitted his team looked “devoid of ideas” as their winning streak of four games came to an end following a 1-0 defeat to Altrincham.

Josh Hancock’s 81st-minute wining goal earned the National League North play-off challengers maximum points against a City team that only mustered three shots during the whole afternoon.

Ex-Gateshead chief Watson confessed that it was an attacking performance that he had not foreseen, but also refused to be overly-critical of players whose February efforts had seen him named the division’s manager of the month.

Offering his forthright view of the contest, Watson declared: “We were really poor and nowhere near good enough on the ball. All the players who have been confident and creative for us just had off days.

“We didn’t string three or four passes together and, at the end, we looked devoid of ideas. Our three front men have all been scoring, but they didn’t have a shot at goal.

“I knew we had to step up in standard to beat a team like Altrincham, but we didn’t ask enough questions of them. Perhaps with the exception of Sean Newton and David Ferguson, nobody did well in possession and, if your best players on the ball are your centre-half and left back, you’re not going to win many games.

“With half-an-hour to go, we decided to go with two strikers to be a bit more positive, but still didn’t create much and, although Parky (Jon Parkin) is a good footballer with the ball to his feet, our players seemed to use him as an excuse to go more direct, which we didn’t want. Our deliveries weren’t very good from set-pieces either and we didn’t win any headers in their box.

“Driving to the game, I felt really positive about how we could hurt them. That’s not how it transpired, and I didn’t really see that performance coming, but I won’t berate the players, because they have responded really well over the last six weeks.”

Watson reasoned that his side lacked the match-winning ability of Hancock, who flicked the ball up in the home box before beating City keeper Adam Bartlett with a dipping 12-yard attempt.

On that decisive moment, the ex-Everton and Newcastle defender added: “We didn’t work hard enough to stop the ball going into the box, but it was a world-class goal from their lad, and we didn’t have that bit of special quality that was the difference between the two sides.”

Otherwise, Watson argued that the Minstermen didn’t look inferior to an opposing team that have occupied a play-off position for all but four days of the last four months.

“I thought Chorley and Stockport looked very strong against us and, whilst we have improved since then and I don’t want to disrespect Altrincham, I don’t think they caused us too many problems,” Watson said. “Adam Bartlett didn’t have many saves to make and they didn’t look much better than us.

“They are a team that score a lot of goals, but they didn’t really hurt us, and we probably restricted them to the fewest shots on target they’ve had in a game for a long time.”

Scott Burgess, who would later hit a post, had the best chance to score for City after breaking clear on goal in the first half but Watson put his failure to beat Robins keeper Tony Thompson into context when he pointed out: “Scott Burgess will be disappointed with his chance, but the keeper stood up and made a good save and even the best players in the world sometimes don’t score one-on-ones, as we’ve seen with Mo Salah recently.”

Watson also feels that second-half substitute Parkin is being unfairly penalised by officials, lamenting: “Every time I play Parky, the referees keep giving fouls against him when, sometimes, they’re not fouls – he’s just moving people out of the way.

“When 6ft 4in defenders end up on the ground, the referee assumes it’s a foul, but he’s so strong.”

Alex Harris had earlier come on for Adriano Moke, but Watson does not expect the latter’s second-half injury to be serious.

“He said he was feeling his groin and I was looking to make a change in midfield, so he made my mind up for me,” Watson explained.

With Telford beaten 3-1 at home by City’s next opponents FC United of Manchester, the gap to the play-off positions only widened by one point to nine and, on the outside chance of gatecrashing the top-seven places, Watson stressed: “There’s less room for error than there was, but we’ve still just got to win as many games as we can.”