YORK City boss Steve Watson has praised his players for "stepping up" in the 2-0 win over higher-tier Stockport County.

After hard-fought wins at lower-level outfits Buxton and Irlam in the previous rounds, and a challenging 1-1 draw at Telford in the league, City were back to their best tonight.

Goalscorers Alex Kempster and man-of-the-match Sean Newton are the easiest players to single out for praise, but the performance across the board can scarcely be faulted.

Watson said: "Some of the lads who were maybe below-par at Buxton and Irlam, they went the other way tonight and really stepped up.

"Bondy and Taity, I think they would admit that Buxton wasn't their brightest moment.

"I though Bondy was exceptional tonight, he was composed and was a real big-game player, among 10 others."

A big positive from the game was the long-awaited return of livewire striker Dan Maguire, who looked no worse off for his two-month lay-off, and was every bit the harrying force he had been in pre-season - even more so, believes Watson.

"Me and Micky went into the office after training and said, 'We have to play him'," said Watson.

"It makes me think he's been carrying that injury through pre-season.

"Since he's come back, he looks free again. Despite the size of him, he's a real threat to defences in our league and the league above."

On the game, he added: "I bet it was a good game to watch. We were delighted with the win. At times, I thought some of the stuff we played was some of the best we have all season.

"Maybe we stepped up to the occasion. We controlled the ball better than in the league at times.

"Tonight, I really enjoyed watching the lads, and we were gritty and solid when we needed to be, hence the clean sheet.

"Some crosses last week were too high or too long. The message tonight was to put them in low and make it hard for the keeper."

The first goal was clear evidence of this tack. Kempster cut in from the right towards the edge of the area and unleashed a bouncing ball into the box. It went through everybody and found its way into the far bottom corner.

Newton added a thunderbolt for the second just a minute later. It took a slight deflection but the original effort was most definitely on target and very sweetly struck.

"With Macca in the centre, Newts adds another dimension to the team, as proved tonight," Watson said.

"I've never seen a left-sided centre-half overlap so much, but we encourage it.

"He topped it off with a great strike."

The home end was in fine voice throughout, flags and drums out to start the evening and a mobile phone torchlight display towards the end, while the boss himself duly responded to chants of 'Watson, Watson, give us a wave'.

"It goes hand-in-hand with not losing games," he added of the atmosphere.

"Looking across to the Longhurst, they had their lights on and it was a really good atmosphere.

"We want to take that kind of performance into the league."