JORDAN BURROW'S first-half finish gave York City a deserved 1-0 win over Alfreton Town.

It was the striker's seventh goal of this National League North campaign and keeps York in the hunt, two points behind table-toppers King's Lynn Town.

Also important was that the performance and win were a necessary confidence boost following losses in the league, FA Cup and FA Trophy. It was the closest City have been to their early-season form for a good few weeks.

York were in near-complete control, threatened only on occasion, as they played with a seemingly renewed verve.

Centre-back Josh King kept his place in the starting line-up, featuring alongside captain Steve McNulty, who came back into the side. Dan Maguire had made it to the pre-match warm-up but pulled up and had to be replaced by Elliott Durrell.

Alfreton manager Billy Heath made one change to the side that won 2-1 at Hereford in their last league outing, goalscorer Danny East making way for Harvey Grice, who netted a late volleyed equaliser at Blyth Spartans in the FA Trophy last Saturday.

Ten-goal top scorer Amari Morgan-Smith made his return to Bootham Crescent following a 28-game spell with York during the 2017/18 campaign. Summer signing from Bradford Park Avenue, where he made almost 100 appearances, Shane Killock started in midfield.

Andy Bond was not far away from giving York an ideal start. Adriano Moke won a corner with a purposeful run from the halfway line which took him between Josh Clackstone and Dom Smith. Bond’s delivery was played back out to him and his curling effort from a tricky angle went just wide.

Alfreton had the ball in the net from an eighth-minute corner, but the goal was disallowed for a foul after it was bundled in by Smith.

Sean Newton tried an audacious free kick from 25 yards, looking to curl low around the wall and into the near bottom corner. The ball struck the side netting.

City did not have much longer to wait for the opener, Jordan Burrow making a good run across his man to meet David Ferguson’s ball in and force home in the 13th minute.

The game’s first caution went to Grice for a wild, late challenge on Durrell.

York boss Steve Watson has spoken about playing the ball faster – and the message seemed to have hit home. In the opening quarter, City were slick and most definitely playing on the front foot. Alfreton had little space to operate in and, when York won the ball back, they broke in numbers. Alex Kempster and Kallum Griffiths both forced errors in the Reds’ backline, the latter not quite able to keep the ball in play after nicking off keeper Jack Atkinson.

At the back, King and McNulty were typically composed and kept Morgan-Smith largely isolated, though there were grumbles around the ground when Moke was caught in possession near the area and Blake got a shot away.

York could have gone two ahead around the half-hour mark and Durrell might have done better to finish from an admittedly tight angle after excellent link-up play in the box with Burrow.

Newton wasted a good crossing opportunity five minutes before the break. Having done well to break clear to run through towards the box, his ball in was well overhit.

Kempster, one of the players left standing in the box by Newton’s cross, then got the better of Josh Thacker. With Burrow in support and in space, Kempster did not get his head up before the ball got caught under his feet and was cleared.

Another swift break had Bond in space on the edge of the area and the sliding Kempster was a whisker away from making contact with his cross.

A neat dinked pass from Ferguson, with the advanced Newton the intended target, closed the half. It was too far ahead for the centre-back but served as more evidence of York’s improved pace and adventure.

A minute after the restart, Morgan-Smith almost had Alfreton level, cracking the crossbar following good work from Blake.

But the striker earned himself a yellow card for his antics at a York free kick, culminating in him running across the ball as Bond lined up a cross.

Twice York went close from corners, and twice the effort was blocked in a scramble. Newton’s latter effort came from a corner won by Kempster after King threaded a delightful through ball in for him. The move started along the back three and Bond released King with an excellent ball around the corner.

Kempster spurned another opportunity in the 68th minute. He had the Alfreton defence beaten for pace and latched onto McNulty’s ball forward, got beyond Ryan Qualter and curled tamely into Atkinson’s arms.

Second-half substitute Macaulay Langstaff tried his luck from range in the closing stages.

York: Jameson 8, Griffiths 8, King 8, McNulty 9, Newton 8, Ferguson 8, Bond 9 (McLaughlin 7, 79), Moke 7, Kempster 7 (Langstaff 73), Burrow 8, Durrell 7 (Green 8, 69). Subs not used: Whitley, Tait.

Star man: Andy Bond. Covered a lot of ground as he ran the midfield impressively and was key in much of York's attacking vigour.

Goals: Burrow

Yellow cards: Newton

Alfreton: Atkinson, Clackstone, Thacker, Grice (Blake 25), Smith, Qualter, Killock, Branson, Clarke, Morgan-Smith, Whitham. Subs not used: Andrew, Bennett, Hinchley, Bacon.

Yellow cards: Grice, Morgan-Smith, Clarke

Referee: Sam Mulhall

Attendance: 2,306 (125 away supporters)