YORK City earned a valuable three points in National League North with a 1-0 win over Kettering Town.

With leaders King's Lynn Town winning 3-0 at Blyth Spartans, the gap to the summit remains four points, though fans will be glad to see York back to winning ways.

It was a particularly hard-fought victory. Kettering made it hard for City, and had moments of their own, while York were not at their best across the board.

They fashioned as few chances as they have for some time, and defensively they were unusually shaky - but showed they were able to take the one vital chance that dropped when Jordan Burrow made the vital intervention just after the hour mark.

New loan signing from Fylde Kurt Willoughby was thrown straight into the action alongside Dan Maguire, making his first start since the FA Cup game against Altrincham on November 10.

The two players to make way from the King’s Lynn Town trip were Alex Kempster and Adriano Moke, who dropped to the bench, accompanied there by Andy Bond, Elliott Durrell and Macaulay Langstaff.

Kettering boss Paul Cox made two changes to the starting line-up from the 2-1 win at Spennymoor. Former Minsterman Daniel Nti and Ben Milnes came in at the expense of Connor Kennedy and Tre Mitford, the latter dropping to the bench.

Fresh from scoring on his first league appearance for the Poppies, defensive midfielder Jason Law – on loan from Mansfield Town – began the day as a substitute.

The match started at a remarkably fact pace, thanks largely to York’s impetus. Willoughby was busy early on, and there was something frantic about the midfield, for better and for worse. They were eager but wasteful in possession.

By contrast, Kettering were unhurried, Ben Milnes a good example as he took the best part of a minute to put his boot back on while Gary Stohrer lay on the ground after going down dramatically under little contact. Stohrer had earlier earned himself the opprobrium of the home crowd when he almost played Aaron O’Connor through on goal from a drop-ball situation.

Yet the closest either side came to goal in the opening 20 minutes was when a left-wing Kettering cross bumbled through two failed York clearances before being hooked away with O’Connor running in.

Nti posed a fair threat for Kettering, who came into the game midway through the half, and his excellent right-wing cross earned the Poppies a corner from which Milnes thought he had given Kettering the lead. The ball was played out to him and his cross in evaded everyone and nestled in the far bottom corner, but referee Kristian Silcock blew up for a foul in the box.

Though the first 10 minutes promised a livewire encounter, by the half-hour mark the game had settled into a tit-for-tat exchange of set pieces and throws. Neither side could truly claim dominance on the ball, and there were groans as Sean Newton overhit a simple pass to David Ferguson into touch.

As the half approached its close, York were starting to look a little more assured, exhibited by Newton, Kieran Green and Paddy McLaughlin playing triangles in the centre of the park before sending Ferguson away down the left. A familiar left-footed cross into the six-yard box was gathered by keeper Paul White with Jordan Burrow arriving behind him. A similar move ended in the same manner a couple of minutes later.

The game was crying out for a spark, and Maguire thought he had provided it in first-half stoppage time. Kallum Griffiths delivered low into the box and Willoughby took an effort which was saved. Maguire was first to the ball to power high into the net but the flag was up for offside.

Steve McNulty was administered the game’s first caution just after the restart for taking out O’Connor off the ball as Kettering looked to break. Milnes’ free kick was confidently cleared.

Undeterred, minutes later, the captain used his strength well to dispossess Nti and, with help from McLaughlin, York went on the break. A good turn and pass from Green sent Griffiths away down the right but his ball forward got caught under Maguire’s feet.

Kettering went close with a Marcus Kelly free kick 10 minutes after half-time. It hit the wall and looped onto the top of Pete Jameson’s crossbar.

Willoughbty’s strength in hold-up play was one bright point for City’s attack and he won a free kick off Jay Williams following a good turn away the Kettering man. As was par for the game, Green’s delivery went over the top and out for a goal kick.

Steve Watson signalled his intent just before the hour, bringing on Kempster and Langstaff for McNulty and Maguire.

And five minutes later, one of the four attackers made the breakthrough. Ferguson went haring down the left and delivered a trademark cross to the near post where it was met by Burrow, who buried it left-footed from close in.

Willoughby was finding himself with more space in the final third and he was able to showcase his skills on a couple of occasions. He was denied by good defending on the edge of the area from one run, and won a free kick with another after beating his first marker.

Langstaff came close to a second in the 74th minute. Burrow rose well to nod on a long Jameson clearance and Langstaff, nipping into the box, was foiled by the onrushing White, who did well to narrow the angle and block the shot.

Kettering came within an inch of an 80th-minute equaliser. Milnes got into too much space on the left and a ball into the box which beat Jameson was heading inexorably for Nti practically on the goalline until Ferguson slid into to block at his feet. An almighty scramble between him, Newton and Griffiths ensued before Jameson collected.

Jameson was called upon a minute later to block well from O’Connor, who had been released by a good through ball.

York: Jameson 8, Griffiths 7, Tait 8, McNulty 8 (Kempster 58), Newton 7, Ferguson 7, McLaughlin 7, Green 8, Willoughby 8, Maguire 7 (Langstaff 7, 58, Moke 80), Burrow 7. Subs not used: Bond, Durrell.

Star man: Kieran Green. Once again, a spark in midfield when York needed it. Not his most influential game but the young man continues to look like fulfilling his promise as a player.

Yellow cards: McNulty, McLaughlin

Kettering: White, Stohrer, Taylor, Graham, McGrath, Solkhon (Law 65), Nti, O’Connor, Williams, Milnes, Kelly (Meikle 62). Subs not used: Carta, Bennett, Mitford.

Referee: Kristian Silcock

Attendance: 2,767 (204 away supporters)