THE PRESS’ February Player of the Month David Mirfin has insisted that manager Steve Watson has been the real catalyst for improvement at York City.

Mirfin, 33, helped City win four out of their five fixtures last month following his loan arrival from League Two promotional hopefuls Mansfield.

His personal accolade was made all the more impressive by the fact that those matches were his first in football for 14 months following knee surgery.

But a modest Mirfin has declared that Watson has made the biggest impact at Bootham Crescent, with the ex-Gateshead chief’s efforts also recognised during his first full month with the club.

Watson was named National League North Manager of the Month for February as the club climbed from 19th in the table to 12th and Mirfin said: “I set myself a target of five or six games to get back into the swing of things to see how my injury reacted so it’s obviously a nice thing to win something that is voted on by fans.

“But I think everybody has been lifted since the gaffer has come in, according to the lads and what I’ve read. He seems to get more from players and there’s been a massive progression under him.”

Mirfin also felt there were other worthy contenders for his accolade, not least his rejuvenated central-defensive partner.

“Me and Newts (Sean Newton) have got a good partnership and he was playing left-wing back before slotting into the centre very comfortably,” the former Huddersfield defender pointed out. Griff (Kallum Griffiths) has also got a bit of everything and Mokes (Adriano Moke) puts in a shift that maybe goes slightly unnoticed by fans but, from a centre half’s perspective, he makes your life easier by doing a lot of horrible work.

“Jordan (Burrow) has also been the club’s talisman and there’s been a bit more pressure on him than anyone to create and score goals.”

The 6ft 2in sentinel did reason, though, that the end of City’s four-game winning streak, during Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to play-off contender Altrincham, did suggest that the squad remain a work in progress.

“We were massively disappointed with the result, but more so with the performance,” he admitted. “Following the run we’d been on and the confidence that it had generated, there was no reason why we should have played like we did.

“A few of their lads said the game had 0-0 written all over it in the second half and, If we had walked off with that, we would have probably said it was progress but to lose 1-0 probably highlighted the performance more and the gaffer will try and work out why we were so disappointing. I don’t think it was a massive step back, but it probably did demonstrate that there’s more work to be done than perhaps the previous four games had suggested. We’ve now got to make sure that it was only a blip and we can build on what we were doing before.”

Josh Hancock’s 81st-minute goal was only the second in six hours of football that has been conceded with Mirfin and Newton as a defensive duo and the former Championship campaigner argued it could have been avoided.

“We maybe got sucked across to the ball, rather than knowing where their man was and he had too much space and time in our box,” Mirfin explained.

Defeat meant the Minstermen have now lost seven of their last eight meetings against teams currently in the division’s top-seven positions and Mirfin now wants to see an improvement in that record with Spennymoor, Bradford Park Avenue and Telford still to play in the final three fixtures of the campaign.

“It was a little bit of a step up,” he said of the Altrincham contest. “They are one of the few teams who try and play like they do at this level and it was a different style to what I have been playing against since coming here, but we want to know we can compete against top-seven teams and that’s our focus in the remaining games.”

City now travel to third-bottom FC United of Manchester with Mirfin believing that the team should focus on their own game-plan rather than second-guessing how their hosts will approach the match.

“You can sometimes concentrate too much on the opposition and stopping them playing, when the main thing is to look at yourselves and what you did to get those results before and get back to that,” he declared. “We’re not going into games thinking we’ve got nothing to lose - we’re going into them saying: ‘Let’s try to win’.

“There’s no pressure in comparison to where we were two months ago when we were looking over our shoulders, so we should be able to go out and enjoy our football a little bit more but there’s also that professional pride and you want to see progression in terms of the club going in the right direction by getting results.”

Mirfin was also pleased to receive an immediate recall to the first XI after sitting out the 1-0 win at Leamington, having suffered the worst facial wound of his career.

“The impact came on the back of their player’s head and I needed 31 stitches to limit the scarring really,” he pointed out. “When I got to hospital, they had to pick some of their player’s hairs out of my lip before sewing it up.

“It was probably the worst facial injury I have had. I’ve had a couple of broken noses, but you crack on with them after shoving a bit of cotton wool up there.

“As soon as Buster (physio Ian Gallagher) saw this one, though, he said we needed to sort it at hospital and the doctor there was brilliant. She did a really good job on it, so it wasn’t a gamble me coming back.”