SEAN NEWTON reckons Hereford striker Reece Styche – the scourge of York City defences during the past two seasons – will steer clear of skipper Steve McNulty on Tuesday night.

Centre-back Newton believes that Styche always tries to prey on the opposition’s weakest player, discounting the imperious McNulty and even modestly suggesting it might, therefore, need to be him that contends with the irritating 30-year-old at Edgar Street.

Styche terrorised and bullied on-loan rookie Dundee defender Tom Bradbury during last season’s meeting between his then team Alfreton and the Minstermen, bagging a brace and also winning his side two penalties.

A traumatised Bradbury never made another City squad, but Newton feels that, if any side are only as strong as their weakest link, then the visitors, who have conceded fewer goals this term than any other side in English football’s top seven divisions bar Premier League high-fliers Leicester, should cope fine with Styche.

“In the past, we have lacked the experience and know-how to deal with him but, with big Steve (McNulty) next to you, he does not let you get involved in things like that with people who want to fight you, cause you problems and do things off the ball,” Newton pointed out. “I know Stychey and he likes to play on the defender that’s having the worst game – Macca does not have bad games, so he will probably target me, Kingy (Josh King) or Taity, (Joe Tait) depending on who’s playing.

“But, if we are on our game, we should have enough to deal with him and, if he does get past one of us, there will also be another two of us to cover, because we’ve done that well this season.”

Newton added, though, that City will still need to be wary of a Hereford team whose season has been one of peaks and troughs.

Russell Slade’s men have not won any of their last eight matches but, prior to that sequence, they rattled off three straight wins and Newton believes the Bulls are familiarly unpredictable, including in their ranks the likes of former City winger Alex Bray, who blew hot and cold during his loan spell at Bootham Crescent from Rotherham last term. They are a bit like how we have been in this league in the past,” Newton added. “They put in a good performance and, then, you look at them and they’ve had a couple of bad results, but we can’t take them lightly.”

Newton, meanwhile, was pleased with Saturday’s response to City’s own mini-slump of three successive defeats without scoring.

A goal from Jordan Burrow was enough to see off Alfreton, meaning Steve Watson’s men can now reclaim top spot in the table by winning their game in hand on King’s Lynn tomorrow night.

Newton insists City are concentrating fully on controlling their own destiny, whilst hinting that he feels some promotion rivals might be focusing too much on the affairs of him and his team-mates.

“We had a tough two weeks, where we’ve had a bit of stick from all over,” Newton said of the three-game losing sequence. “But we’re not worried about anybody else, even if we seem to be in everybody else’s heads.

“The win was a good reaction. It didn’t really matter how we got it, but I thought, for 60 or 70 minutes, we were good and should have had more goals. It was a comfortable performance, even though you’re never really comfortable at 1-0.”

David Ferguson was back among the assists, too, against Alfreton as he and Newton – the only two City ever-presents this season – combined well down the left flank.

The latter was also quick to point out the selfless forward runs of midfield team-mates to create the gaps that have been missing in recent weeks for the Minstermen’s most potent source of opportunities this season to exploit.

“We were a bit closer to where we want to be, with the wing-backs getting into the final third and putting crosses in,” Newton admitted. “It’s been hard to get Fergie out in recent weeks.

“Teams have stopped me playing forward and I have been the supply for him most of the time but, when he has got on the ball, he’s then had the forward, winger and right-back to beat. But, against Alfreton, we had the midfielders like Bondy (Andy Bond) running beyond, which stretched them and created more space for Fergie, which we had been working on in training.”