1 Sean Newton is finding redemption since his positional switch

On-loan Mansfield centre-back David Mirfin has rightly merited widespread recognition for the part he has played in transforming the club’s defensive fortunes. But, alongside The Press’ February Player of the Month, Sean Newton has been almost free of fault since his switch to the heart of the Minstermen’s back line.

The pair’s performances have been hugely welcomed, given the instability in that area of the pitch during a season in which eight other centre backs – Tom Allan, Hamza Bencherif, Tom Bradbury, Joe Davis, Kennedy Digie, Josh Law, Dan Parslow and Joe Tait – have all been fielded at different stages of the season. Newton’s ball-carrying and ball-playing ability has also demonstrated to City boss Steve Watson that he does not necessarily need to employ a three-man defence to get his side playing out from the back.

Despite inevitable disappointment as a four-match winning run was nipped in the bud with this defeat, significant progress was still evident in terms of the team’s defensive organisation. Whereas the Minstermen had conceded by the 26-minute mark in five of their six previous meetings with top-seven teams and trailed 2-0 to Chorley, Stockport and Spennymoor before that stage in three of those contests, Adam Bartlett wasn’t required to make a single save until the hour mark and would only dirty his gloves from one further shot all afternoon against the division’s most potent away strikeforce.

City were eventually breached on 81 minutes, but the effort represented only the second goal the team have conceded in seven-and-a-half hours of football since Newton’s move to centre back. If he maintains that level of consistency, the 30-year-old utility man might just regain the respect he had seemingly lost among certain sections of the fan base during an indifferent campaign that had seen him fall completely out of favour under previous boss Sam Collins.

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2 Scott Burgess shouldn’t be deterred by his inability to take first-half opportunity

The on-loan Bury midfielder showed excellent anticipation to seize possession in the away half and charge clear on goal. With Jordan Burrow to his left, Burgess’ decision-making was perhaps then a little flawed, as he tried to beat keeper Tony Thompson when a square pass might have been the better option.

Burgess went on to hit the post with the best of City’s four opportunities during the game and the positive 21-year-old should not let his failure to find the net against Altrincham dissuade him from continuing to press forward into promising scoring positions, with only five league goals having been netted by recognised midfielders this season. With one to his name since arriving in January, Burgess’ tally already matches that of Alex Harris and Simon Heslop and is only one behind the normally shot-shy Adriano Moke.

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3 City needed greater ammunition from wide areas

Steve Watson has identified crosses into the box as the chief threat his side have faced since his appointment as manager and that again proved the source of Altrincham’s winning goal when John Johnston’s low delivery picked out Josh Hancock in the penalty area. At the other end of the pitch, though, other than Scott Burgess’ free kick that was tamely headed towards goal by Sean Newton deep into stoppage time, the Minstermen did not create one chance from wide areas, highlighting a lack of flank potency in open play.

With full-backs Kallum Griffiths and David Ferguson largely pre-occupied by the respective wing threats of Yusufi Ceesay and Johnston, it was left to Wes York and Alex Kempster to provide attacking impetus in the same areas for City but, while both provided perspiration, they struggled to inject inspiration.

Alex Harris, brought on for Kempster on the left, could not get forward enough either to make his presence felt during a quiet 33-minute cameo and, with a record of just five goals from general play during 11 meetings with top-seven sides this term, a question mark remains over this squad’s potential to unlock and unsettle the division’s leading teams.

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4 Top-scorer Jordan Burrow is not getting a sniff of goal

City’s 17-goal leading marksman has managed just two off-target headers in his last four outings, including the North Riding Senior Cup contest against Scarborough, but not his saved penalty shoot-out spot kick in that contest. Remarkably, that means the Minstermen’s most advanced forward player has not managed a shot of any description with his feet during more than six hours of football.

Whether that boils down to inadequate service, a struggle to fashion chances for himself or a combination of both, City chief Steve Watson will be looking to increase his main centre forward’s shot-per-games ratio in forthcoming fixtures.

York Press:

5 Jon Parkin is struggling to end his five-month goal drought

After being hailed off the bench, the veteran striker arguably made his presence felt in subsequent victories over Alfreton and Ashton United under Steve Watson, but he is now without a goal in his last 11 appearances – all as a substitute – since scoring at Nuneaton back on October 2. If Parkin fails to net in his next appearance, he will equal his longest-ever drought in a season for more than a decade, dating back to when he fired blanks in his first 15 games for Preston following an August 2008 move to the Championship outfit.

Should he be set to hang up his boots at the end of this season, it seems the 37-year-old marksman of 224 senior goals must act quickly to avoid leaving the game without hitting the target in his final six months as a professional.