YORK City marked their return to playing action with a 1-0 defeat at Bootham Crescent against North East rivals Darlington.

The only goal of the game was an excellent strike from Adam Campbell inside the opening 10 minutes, and he could well have had another soon after as York struggled to get into the game.

It seemed to take 45 minutes and three substitutions for National League North high-fliers York to get back into the game following a very sluggish opening period.

The Minstermen improved immeasurably after the break, getting closer and closer as full-time drew near, but nothing seemed to fall for them.

Combined with increasing levels of gamesmanship from Darlo, it made for a frustrating evening for the hosts.

As was hoped in the week, Joe Tait could be named in a familiar-looking starting 11 for York after he had left the field at Kettering Town with an injury.

Steve Watson’s only change from that line-up is Andy Bond coming into midfield for Paddy McLaughlin.

Darlo manager Alun Armstrong made three changes from last week’s 2-2 FA Trophy draw at Solihull Moors. Omar Holness and Justin Donawa dropped to the bench while Jarrett Rivers earned himself a start.

New signing from Morpeth Sean Reid was thrown straight into the action.

Fresh from netting his first of the season on Saturday, Will Hatfield retained his starting berth in midfield, while fellow goalscorer Jack Lambert returned to the substitutes bench.

Darlington started the game like a freight train, and scarcely relented as the half went on. Their sharp forwards posed an immediate and definite threat, and they were quicker to the second ball across the pitch than York, who would have hoped to look fresher after a week’s break from action. Their first touch was often lacking, passes too slow in coming and communication seemed to take a backseat as the half progressed. Still, with a bit of fortune, York could have found themselves level at the break.

The visitors made strides forward early on, Adam Campbell forcing Pete Jameson to tip away for a corner.

The shot-stopper did well a couple of minutes on to make a brave stop at the feet of captain Stephen Thompson.

New boy Reid looked to make a quick impression, lining up a shot when unmarked 25 yards out but it drifted wide.

Former Newcastle United youngster Campbell opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a fine curling strike that dipped into Jameson’s top right corner.

York – who had yet to come into the game still – had two good chances to level immediately. First, Elliott Durrell saw a low effort palmed away by keeper Chris Elliott, before Tait blazed over when six yards out from the resultant corner.

He made remarkable amends though. Jameson was dispossessed by Campbell outside the area and the striker ran completely unopposed into the area with the goal gaping – only for Tait to slide in and block the two-yard on the line.

A quarter of an hour in and it really was end-to-end stuff. Alex Kempster was sent haring into the box and, from a tricky angle, forced Elliott to block high at his near post.

At the other end, McNulty made a good recovery to nick the ball off Joe Wheatley, who had the veteran centre-back beaten for pace.

By the 19-minute mark, Kempster was wondering how it was not 1-1. David Ferguson’s low ball from the left evaded everyone in the box and the incoming striker saw his shot blocked from mere yards out.

A perfectly-timed crunching tackle from Jameson – closer the halfway line than his own box – on Campbell brought rapturous approval from the packed David Longhurst Stand as the forward looked to bring a long ball under control.

The well-organised visitors were frustrating York as they struggled to find a way to play through. Jameson’s ball over the top fell nicely for Kempster, who jinked into the box but was only able to get a tame outside-of-the-foot effort away.

The home fans’ discontent was vocal as Darlington’s tricky attackers carved out another good opportunity, which was put just beyond the corner of the goal frame.

Jordan Burrow was cautioned for a poor, heavy challenge, and from the free kick, Darlington worked the ball upfield and cracked Jameson’s right-hand post.

Watson signalled his own discontent with a triple half-time change, with McLaughlin, Kieran Green and Macaulay Langstaff replacing Andy Bond, Kallum Griffiths and Durrell.

The substitutions looked to have done York some good as they were gaining greater traction in midfield. Convincing efforts were still conspicuous by their absence – Sean Newton providing the best chances with a couple of whipped balls into the area – while Watson held his head in disbelief that a rebounded Adriano Moke cross was not given as a corner.

Darlo maintained their intensity but were largely kept to long-range efforts until the hour mark, when Jameson blocked Campbell from close-range.

Whatever initiative York were missing, Watson made up for as he sprinted down the touchline to get rid of a superfluous ball to speed up a goal kick – and City briefly responded, slick, one-touch passing putting Kempster through on goal in space. His effort went wide.

York went the closest yet in the 70th minute when some pinball in the box brought a save from Elliott before his crossbar was rattled from close range – as it was two minutes later as Langstaff got on the end of Moke’s cross in.

Second-half Darlington substitute Justin Donawa almost made a swift mark on the game as his low shot was fumbled into the path of Campbell, whose effort Jameson blocked easily.

With 15 minutes remaining, a stretching Langstaff hit the side netting from a difficult ball in before Green slid in onto a low cross. Elliott was equal to it.

Tenacious work from Kempster on the left-hand side of the pitch brought a crossing opportunity, which went just ahead of Burrow. Elliott was booked for time-wasting from the goal kick.

York: Jameson 6, Griffiths 5 (Green 7, HT), Ferguson 6, Newton 7, McNulty 7, Tait 7, Moke 6, Bond 5 (McLaughlin HT), Burrow 5, Durrell 6 (Langstaff HT), Kempster 6. Subs not used: Spratt, Whitley.

Yellow cards: Burrow, McLaughlin

Star man: Kieran Green. His half-time substitution injected some much-needed urgency and strength into York's midfield. By no means a perfect performance, but was a necessary change to the dynamic.

Darlington: Elliott, Hedley, Liddle, Wheatley, Lang, Storey, Rivers, Hatfield, Campbell (Watson 83), Reid, Thompson (Donawa 74). Subs not used: Lambert, Holness, Bascombe.

Goals: Campbell

Yellow cards: Elliott

Referee: Thomas Kirk

Attendance: 3,187 (668 visiting supporters)