IT took an on-loan Mariner to all but sink York City’s hopes of snatching a National League north play-off place.

In truth, though, Steve Watson merits gratitude for having already navigated the Minstermen away from choppy waters this season and it always seemed more realistic that he might target unchartered territory – a genuine promotion push from the sixth tier – next term.

So, while Grimsby Town winger Max Wright’s equaliser left City eight points adrift of the top-seven positions instead of six and sitting 14th in the standings rather than 11th with seven matches to play, the game only really exposed shortcomings that have been evident throughout an underwhelming campaign.

Watson was quick to cite a lack of open-play potency at the final whistle as the reason for his team’s failure to take maximum points, with both home goals in the 2-2 draw scored from free kicks – the first courtesy of a spectacular Sean Newton strike and the second after Macaulay Langstaff followed up a saved Jon Parkin effort.

And statistics certainly confirm that the side’s shot-shy streak has been a feature of the whole season.

Jordan Burrow is the team’s leading scorer on 17 goals but, excluding penalties, he has only netted six times in the league – the same number as Langstaff, while centre-back Newton is now just one behind that pair on five.

The appearance of Parkin in the starting line-up for the first time since September 1 did offer a timely reminder of the importance of attacking guile in any team, with his intelligence, touch and awareness still Championship calibre, even if his legs, fitness levels and physique are not. Parkin was fouled for the shots that led to both of City’s goals and also played a significant role in the move that saw Paddy McLaughlin fail to hit the target with an excellent chance to extend the lead to 3-0.

When the 37-year-old veteran departed just past the hour mark, though, the greater industry offered by the likes of Burrow, Langstaff, Wes York and Alex Kempster could not summon up any form of a threat with another Newton free kick providing the only opportunity thereafter.

At the other end of the pitch, Watson has worked hard to eradicate the defensive sloppiness that had seen the club keep just three clean sheets in 18 league matches prior to his arrival and then concede 11 goals in his first four games at the helm.

Since then, only two goals had been shipped in five fixtures prior to the Pilgrims’ visit and, even though Craig Elliott’s men would double that tally in 18 second-half minutes, home keeper Adam Bartlett only faced one other on-target effort all afternoon.

A low-key start saw just one goal attempt before Newton’s 24th-minute blockbuster, with away winger Nicky Walker missing the target from 30 yards after Burrow had lost possession in his own half.

Newton livened up proceedings, though, after former City youth-team defender Ryan Qualter was penalised for climbing on top of Parkin.

Setting his sights 30 yards from goal, the ex-England C international then crashed a brilliantly-curled shot off the underside of a helpless George Willis’ crossbar.

Moments later, Langstaff twisted and turned before lifting a tame edge-of-the-box chance into the arms of Willis.

The 22-year-old forward, making his first appearance since returning on loan from Bradford Park Avenue, joined Newton on the scoresheet, however, on 38 minutes.

Parkin again won a free kick as recent Bootham Crescent trialist Ryan Cresswell was cautioned for tripping him 25 yards from goal.

This time, the ex-Stoke and Hull forward assumed dead-ball duties and forced Willis into a low parry down to his right with Langstaff pouncing from eight yards and a covering Qualter only able to help his shot into the net. Boston had offered little, meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch during the first half, although David Mirfin survived a slight scare when his under-hit back pass saw Bartlett cannon a clearance against Walker, but the ball subsequently sailed over an empty goal.

Shortly after the restart, Kallum Griffiths’ free kick was headed on by Parkin into Burrow’s path and, after his shot was blocked by Cresswell, the ball broke favourably for Paddy McLaughlin, but he steered a free edge-of-the-box shot at Willis’ goal wide of the relieved keeper’s right-hand post.

The miss proved a pivotal moment, as almost immediately Griffiths was required to make a perfect and potentially goal-saving sliding tackle with Wright preparing to shoot having ran on to an Andy Thanoj through ball.

Qualter also fired wide from 15 yards before finding Wright again through the left channel and, this time, the 20-year-old attacker nipped into the penalty box before seeing his drilled shot kept out by Bartlett’s legs.

Boston were back in the game, however, on the hour when a sliding Walker beat Mirfin to a loose ball in the home box and directed a low ball across from the left that Rollins tapped in from five yards.

For City, Burrow left Cresswell for dead but, after cutting in from the left wing, saw his speculative shot from a diminishing angle go out for a throw when others were up in support.

Encouraged again, Boston saw George Smith curl wide from 20 yards and, on 78 minutes, parity was restored after careless play by Langstaff resulted in him losing possession just inside the away half.

The visitors quickly broke upfield with Wright curling a splendid, edge-of-the-box finish inside Bartlett's left-hand post.

City might still have claimed victory, but York somehow failed to find the net from a couple of yards after Willis had beaten out another Newton free kick.

Boston sub Tom Clare then lifted a poor attempt high and wide into the visitors’ end after unsettling Mirfin, but the Lincolnshire side have still only lost two of their eight league meetings against the Minstermen.

City ratings

Adam Bartlett 6

Kallum Griffiths 7

David Mirfin 6

Sean Newton 8

David Ferguson 6

Adriano Moke 6

Scott Burgess 6

Paddy McLaughlin 6

Macaulay Langstaff 6

Jordan Burrow 6

Jon Parkin 8

Subs: Wes York 5 (for Parkin, 63), Alex Kempster (for Moke, 73), Alex Harris (for Langstaff, 81).

Subs not used: Ryan Whitley, Hamza Bencherif.

Star man: Parkin - only player in final third that made right decisions throughout and team created just one opportunity after his 63rd-minute departure

Boston: George Willis, Ben Davies, Ryan Cresswell (Ashley Jackson 73), Ryan Qualter, George Smith, Max Wright, Andi Thanoj (Tom Clare, 59), Nicky Wroe, Brad Abbott, Nicky Walker, Jay Rollins (Jonathan Wafula, 81). Subs not used: Andre Johnson, Jordan Slew.

Boston star man: Wroe – kept and used the ball sensibly

Referee: Adam Williamson 6/10 – slightly needless flurry of late cautions

Booked: Cresswell 37, Wafula 83, Smith 88, Griffiths 89, Wroe 90, York 90+2

Sent off: None

Attendance: 2,594 (260 from Boston)

Shots on target: City 5, Boston 3

Shots off target: City 2, Boston 5

Corners: City 2, Boston 3

Fouls conceded: City 11, Boston 15

Offside: City 1, Boston 1