1 City’s form against bottom-half-of-the-table teams is of play-off standard

Victory over Southport meant the Minstermen have now collected 36 of their 51 points from teams currently positioned in the lower half of the National League North table. That number, therefore, equates to 71 per cent of City’s 2018/19 tally with only bottom-three outfits Nuneaton (89 per cent) and Ashton United (76 per cent) boasting higher point ratios against teams occupying the table’s 12th to 22nd places, which is understandable given their struggles to match the division’s best sides.

For City, though, the discrepancy is abnormal and, outside of the top-five teams, only Boston United can better the former’s haul against the division’s worst-performing outfits and, then, only by one point. Other than Curzon Ashton and Hereford, the 12th-placed Minstermen have beaten every side below them in the table at least once, with doubles now recorded over Ashton and Southport.

The Minstermen’s form against such sides, therefore, is symptomatic of a top-seven outfit. But, on too many occasions when pitted against play-off challengers this term, City have come up short.

It is a pattern that Steve Watson hasn’t been able to reverse as yet, with three of the four defeats during his 13-game tenure coming against top-five sides Stockport, Chorley and Altrincham. For that reason, City’s final four games against clubs currently positioned between fourth and ninth in the standings should provide affirmation of which areas in his squad are of most urgent need for improvement over the summer.

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2 Macaulay Langstaff is now front of the queue for out-of-contract players seeking a new deal

With seven senior players contracted for next season, along with teenage duo Nathan Dyer and Reiss Harrison, it is unlikely too many players whose deals lapse this summer will be on the 2019/20 books. On top of those seven, at least one goalkeeper will need to be added too with both Adam Bartlett and Ryan Whitley’s current terms expiring at the end of the campaign.

So, if Steve Watson is to have the necessary scope to bolster his ranks and reinvigorate the club, the retained list is unlikely to be a long one. Macaulay Langstaff, however, has perhaps jumped to the front of the queue for a new contract offer courtesy of his performances since being recalled from a loan spell at Bradford Park Avenue.

The 22-year-old forward’s prospects arguably looked a little bleak when he was allowed to join the Horsfall Stadium outfit in February but, having scored four goals in as many games since his return and also claimed an assist, Langstaff is giving himself the best possible opportunity of extending his stay with the Minstermen beyond one season. If he can sustain such form against some of the division’s best teams in the run-in, then the ex-Gateshead forward will have presented a compelling case for continued employment.

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3 City’s lowest Saturday turn-out remains better than some League Two outfits

With the number of away fans disregarded, this match did represent the lowest gate for a Saturday National League North match this term at Bootham Crescent but, even then, the number of home supporters did not drop below the 2,000-mark. That has only happened once for a league contest all season – the 2-2 December midweek draw against Leamington.

Such support for a mid-table, end-of-season encounter will not have gone unnoticed by Steve Watson, whose previous club Gateshead have only been able to attract an average of 843 this season in the division above. In fact, only gates at Wrexham, Leyton Orient and Hartlepool were higher than City’s below-par attendance from the weekend’s programme of National League contests and the crowd at Bootham Crescent also bettered those at League Two duo Crawley and Macclesfield.

Boasting the second-highest gates in the division once more, behind Stockport who could be moving up this term, it is to be hoped that City’s league position is soon more commensurate with the fan figures moving forward.

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4 Ryan Whitley proved he has all the attributes to make a fine keeper

Given the attention he attracted as a youngster when he was called up for England training camps whilst having Manchester City run the rule over him in a trial, it has perhaps come as a surprise that the York-born City fan has had to wait until the age of 19 for his first opportunity in between the senior sticks. That can partly be explained by first-choice Adam Bartlett’s injury record, on-pitch disciplinary conduct and general good form – other than a sticky patch in the early days of Steve Watson’s tenure as manager.

Equally, that long period as an understudy will have also meant Whitley was more mentally ready to take the opportunity that was handed to him against Southport than might have been the case had he been thrown into the most unforgiving of positions as a matter of necessity following a Bartlett red card rather than at the club’s time of choosing. Whitley only had to face routine shots at goal from the visitors, but his handling, decision making at crosses, kicking and delivery of vocal instructions all caught the eye on his debut.

A 6ft 7in frame is of undoubted benefit to any aspiring young goalkeeper and, while it is important not to read too much into one performance, Whitley does look to have all the tools that made so many high-profile suitors sit up and take notice in his formative years. Perhaps the most obvious comparison to be made is with last term’s 20-year-old, loan recruit Bailey Peacock-Farrell who looked far from assured during his loan spell from Leeds last term before going on to establish himself as a regular for the Championship title contenders, as well as a full Northern Ireland international.

It is important, of course, to make the distinction that Peacock-Farrell was coming into an alien environment, whereas Whitley will have trained with his team-mates all season but it was, nevertheless, a highly-encouraging debut and, if he retains his starting position, it will be intriguing to see how he performs in the remaining four matches against teams all targeting points for promotion.

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5 Past scars can be healed with astute teenage loan recruits

With Jackie McNamara’s recklessly naïve and flawed recruitment policy still the stuff of nightmares, City supporters could be forgiven for a little reticence at the sight of a teenage loan singing with no previous experience of first-team football. Steve Watson is not of the same mind and, while the arrival of Dundee defender Tom Bradbury hasn’t really worked out, the performance of Jasper Moon did suggest that the youth market might still be a line of transfer activity worth pursuing if it is approached in tandem with a thorough scouting programme and executed in moderation, rather than as a wholesale, scattergun approach.

The Barnsley hopeful looked positionally astute on his senior debut and, importantly, remained composed to recover from the occasional mistakes he did make. While McNamara might have diminished trust in loaning teenage talent, the contributions of Nick Pope and Ben Gibson and their subsequent career achievements present a convincing counter argument too.