ONLY Ashton United and Hereford have now netted fewer times against the National League North’s top-seven teams than York City.

Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Altrincham means the Minstermen have scored just seven goals in 11 meetings with clubs currently occupying the automatic promotion and play-off spots.

Second-bottom Ashton, meanwhile, have managed six in the same number of fixtures while Hereford’s paltry haul of five might be mitigated somewhat by the fact that they have only played nine matches against the division’s leading lights so far.

To put City’s return into some sort of context, it is matched by a Nuneaton team now 14 points adrift at the bottom of the table and with just one win in their last 25 contests, while the likes of Blyth (20 goals), Darlington (19), Leamington (17) and FC United of Manchester (17) – all below the Bootham Crescent outfit in the standings – have had much more joy breaching the same defences in corresponding fixtures.

The blank scoresheet against Alty also represented the fifth time the Minstermen have failed to net against the highest-placed teams in the division.

During those 11 matches, 17-goal top scorer Jordan Burrow is yet to score in open play – both of his strikes coming from the penalty spot.

Otherwise, Macaulay Langstaff, Alex Kempster, Adriano Moke, Sean Newton and Wes York have all hit the target once apiece.

During his short tenure, City chief Steve Watson has proven himself adept at identifying and addressing problems, with his well-drilled team once more restricting the number of shots Adam Bartlett faced against the league’s most potent away strikeforce.

Two goals have now been conceded in the last five matches, compared to the dozen shipped in the previous quintet of fixtures.

But, against those teams targeting fifth-tier football next term, City still appear to lack a little inspiration in the final third of the pitch.

Against Altrincham, the front three of York, Burrow and Kemspter lacked little in graft, but were found wanting for the kid of craft that saw Josh Hancock conjure up an 81st-minute winner to decide this tight contest.

City would end the game having only mustered two meaningful attacks and Watson will now be looking closely at his side’s final three matches of the season – against Spennymoor, Bradford Park Avenue and Telford who are third, fifth and seventh respectively – to learn whether this squad of players are capable of better unsettling the division’s top teams contrary to evidence from the first four-fifths of the campaign.

During a cagey first half, the visitors’ midfield prompter Sean Williams fired the game’s first effort just wide from 20 yards at the end of a patient passing move.

On 18 minutes, the Minstermen then squandered an excellent opportunity to forge in front, as Scott Burgess seized on a defensive mix-up to surge clear through the right channel.

But the on-loan Bury midfielder shot straight at Robins keeper Tony Thompson and an unmarked Burrow could not collect the rebound.

After Yusufi Ceesay went on to drive high and wide from 20 yards, City survived their biggest scare of the opening 45 minutes, as an unopposed Tom Hannigan headed down and wide from three yards following John Johnston’s free kick from the right.

On the stroke of half-time, Jordan Hulme also lifted a 15-yard opportunity over after riding Newton’s edge-of-the-box challenge.

Just after the restart, City were again relieved to see Ceesay drill against Bartlett’s near post after Kallum Griffiths and David Mirfin had both misjudged the bounce of the ball in the wind to send the on-loan Blackpool winger clear through the right channel. In response, just before the hour mark, Burgess worked his way into a shooting position inside the away penalty box and blasted a rising 12-yard attempt against a beaten Thompson’s right-hand post.

Moments later, Ceesay’s weak sidefooted, 20-yard effort called Bartlett into his first save of the match, while Hannigan lifted over from close to the penalty spot following a low-struck Johnston corner.

Hulme also glanced wide from a Jake Moult left-wing cross, before Hancock failed to extend Bartlett twice from distance.

A further Hulme attempt narrowly cleared the bar from 15 yards, prior to Hancock’s deadlock breaker.

The former Telford and Salford attacker claimed his 16th goal of the season when, following Johnston’s low cross from the right, he was afforded time and space in the home box to flick the ball up and then beat Bartlett with a dipping 12-yard strike.

Watson’s men couldn’t mount a response even with Jon Parkin and Hamza Bencherif both thrown upfield to add weight to the frontline, as Newton’s header from a 94th-minute Burgess free kick was easily collected by Thompson before the final whistle ensured Altrincham followed table-topping Chorley in completing the double over the Minstermen this term.

City ratings

Adam Bartlett 6

Kallum Griffiths 6

David Mirfin 6

Sean Newton 7

David Ferguson 6

Adriano Moke 5

Scott Burgess 6

Paddy McLaughlin 5

Wes York 5

Jordan Burrow 5

Alex Kempster 5

Subs: Alex Harris 5 (for Moke, 57), Jon Parkin (for Kempster, 62), Hamza Bencherif (for Griffiths, 90).

Subs not used: Ryan Whitley, Josh Law.

Star man: Newton – switched play in impressive fashion considering blustery conditions and defended well

Altrincham: Tony Thompson, Andy White, James Jones (Billy Sass-Davies, 66), Tom Hannigan, Connor Hampson, John Johnston, Jake Moult, Sean Williams, Josh Hancock (Max Harrop, 90+2), Yusifu Ceesay (Simon Richman, 84), Jordan Hulme. Subs not used: Callum Dolan, Shaun Densmore.

Altrincham star man: Williams – directed proceedings well from middle of the park

Referee: John Matthews 7/10 – generally sensible with his decisions

Booked: Moult 48, McLaughlin 78, Harrop 90+2

Sent off: None

Attendance: 2,618 (249 From Altrincham)

Shots on target: City 4, Altrincham 4

Shots off target: City 0, Altrincham 8

Corners: City 4, Altrincham 5

Fouls conceded: City 15, Altrincham 8

Offside: City 0, Altrincham 3