YORK City boss Steve Watson declared his side the better team during a 2-2 draw at Chester but was left lamenting “two bad errors”.

The Minstermen led twice against the National League North play-off hopefuls courtesy of goals from midfielders Adriano Moke and Paddy McLaughlin.

But Chester replied following two badly-defended set-pieces with teenage keeper Ryan Whitley misjudging a Matty Waters free kick from the left before the ball struck Sean Newton on the head for a calamitous own goal.

A Iwan Murray corner then saw City beaten in the first and second phases as centre-back Danny Livesey helped the ball on and George Waring scored in off Whitley’s left-hand upright.

Otherwise, Whitley only had one save to make during 90 minutes in which the Minstermen created twice as many chances as their tenth-placed hosts.

The result ended any mathematical chance of City making the top seven this season with thee fixtures still to play, but Watson still felt the performance, if not the result, demonstrated that progress has been made since he and assistant-manager Micky Cummins arrived at the club from Gateshead in January.

“Chester are above us in the table and we looked better than them,” Watson argued. “We’ve only had one defeat in the last ten games and we’re trying to progress as a team, and I think we’ve come a decent way since we came here.

“The goals we scored were well-crafted and we had more clear-cut chances in the first half than they had all game, but two bad errors cost us and that’s a bitter pill to swallow because, otherwise, I can’t say we played badly or made any bad decisions. Ryan didn’t have much to do other than pick the ball out of his net twice and I always thought there were goals in the game for us.”

Watson refused to castigate Whitley, meanwhile, for the mistake in only his second senior outing and believes the 19-year-old, former Archbishop Holgate pupil has the personality to recover from the setback.

“We didn’t need to give the foul away, but it wasn’t really in a dangerous area and Ryan just completely lost the flight of the ball,” Watson said of Chester’s first equaliser early in the second half. “He’s a young lad and everything went right for him during his debut in our last game, but Newts assumed he was going to catch the cross and it came at him so quickly that he couldn’t do much about it.

“That’s the life of a goalkeeper, but Ryan has a very calm demeanour about him and never looks flustered. He’s probably not been used to having to deal with a lot of high balls into his box on windy days, but he’ll have to get used to them if he’s playing for the first team at this level.

“The keeper is the last line of defence so, when they make a mistake, they cost you a goal, but I’ll be backing him and won’t be having a go at him. Everyone patted him on the back afterwards as well and said: ‘hard luck’.

“Nobody has torn his head off, so I think he’ll be fine. Their second goal was also disappointing, because the ball went through a lot of our bodies before they scored.”

Moke had earlier opened the scoring with a spectacular 15-yard strike and, after witnessing his third goal of the season, Watson called on the 29-year-old midfielder to “back himself more”.

“I’ve been telling Mokes to back himself more and, hopefully, he now shows what he’s capable of during the rest of the season and has a bit more belief,” Watson said. “His energy levels are good and, when he drives forward with the ball, there aren’t many people in this league who can keep up with him.”

Moke’s return to the team after a one-match suspension was the only change from the side that started the previous Saturday’s 1-0 home win against Southport with Jake Wright dropping to the bench and, explaining that decision, Watson added: “I went with Mokes as I thought our three lads would have the edge on their midfielders in terms of energy and creativity.”

Attacker Langstaff also earned plaudits from his manager as his excellent run through the left channel teed up McLaughlin’s goal, taking his personal contribution to four goals and two assists in five matches since returning from a loan spell with Bradford Park Avenue.

“Macca has been great for us since he came back,” Watson enthused. “He showed a lot of perseverance, skill and pace to claim another assist and he might have got another goal for us in the first half as well.”

Adam Bartlett returned to the squad as a substitute and, despite Watson going without cover between the sticks when the ex-England C international had been ill seven days earlier, Watson admitted he prefers to name two net-minders in his matchday squads.

“I don’t think there’s any real need to have five outfield players on the bench because you can normally cover every position with four,” he reasoned.