YORK City’s promotion ambitions have come to an end after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Altrincham.

In their first game back amid the coronavirus pandemic, York’s effort or application could not be criticised but it was in their finishing that Altrincham outmatched them.

Though the visitors had their fair share of the chances, particularly late on, the opportunities they did make were clinically put away.

Josh Hancock’s goal early on left York chasing the game before Tom Peers sealed the win with a quarter of an hour to go.

Throughout York seemed to be the aggressor. They hit the bar, missed clear cut chances and always pressed the issue.

York Press: Cardboard cut-outs of fansCardboard cut-outs of fans

Though, perhaps given that Altrincham had played a high-tempo game just six days previously, they weren’t quite as sharp as their opposition.

In many ways, it feels a cruel ending to a season in which York were for long periods and at the top of the National League North.

But, whatever your thoughts and feelings on points-per-game and restarting the season, York were unable to get over the line at this crucial point.

Steve Watson had reported that five or six players had missed training due to injuries at the start of the week, though he only made one change to the side that won at Alfreton back in March.

Striker Dan Maguire was dropped to the bench in place of Paddy McLaughlin, with York potentially looking to match the possession-heavy Altrincham in midfield.

York Press: City's Callum Griffiths goes past Altrincham's Connor HampsonCity's Callum Griffiths goes past Altrincham's Connor Hampson

Alongside McLaughlin in the three-man midfield were Adam Buxton, making his first home start for York, and Kieran Green.

Altrincham named the same starting 11 that defeated Chester 3-2 last weekend.

Prior to kick-off, both teams took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter.

After a lightening start to the game, York should really have been ahead inside four minutes.

David Ferguson found room on the left flank and sent the ball in for Jordan Burrow. The ball then fell for Alex Kempster who could only blaze his shot over from close range.

York Press: City's Macaulay Langstaff holds off Alti's Tom HanniganCity's Macaulay Langstaff holds off Alti's Tom Hannigan

Both sides were evidently up for the game, with Elliott Durrell being met with a forceful challenge from Joe Tait on his return to Bootham Crescent.

Then, on eight minutes, Altrincham were in front, from their first chance.

Jordan Hulme picked up the ball on the left side and laid a pass into the path of Hancock who managed to squirm his shot through the legs of Peter Jameson in the York goal and into the bottom corner.

The fact that this was York’s first game since March and only Altrincham’s second was barely noticeable as proceedings continued at a frenetic pace.

York were the side making the chances after the goal - Sean Newton curling a shot against the top of the crossbar before Jordan Burrow couldn’t quite direct another threatening Ferguson delivery.

The left-wing-back, with 16 assists to his name already this season, continued to cause problems as this time a low cross forced Tony Thompson into saving a potential own goal. 

York Press: City's Dan Maguire looks to penetrate the Altrincham defenceCity's Dan Maguire looks to penetrate the Altrincham defence

Altrincham always looked a threat when going forward, their quick front three looking particularly dangerous on the counter-attack.

Durrell almost doubled their lead before the drinks break when he lashed a shot a few inches wide with the York defence backing off from 25 yards out.

From then on it was York making all of the opportunities. Buxton dragged a tame shot wide, Kallum Griffiths’ stinging half volley was well stopped by Thompson before Kempster shot straight at the keeper at the end of a well-worked move. 

But with only the Griffiths shot properly testing the Robins goal in that patch of chances, York just weren’t offering quite enough in the final third as the sides went back to the changing rooms for half-time.

10 seconds into the second half and the fiery tempo remained - Durrell the latest in the book for a late challenge on Griffiths.

And again it was Ferguson making things happen as an early free-kick found Burrow whose glancing header went close.

York Press: David Ferguson whips in a crossDavid Ferguson whips in a cross

Only seven minutes into the restart and Watson decided to make a change. Adriano Moke and Maguire were on for McLaughlin and Green as York moved to a three-man strike force.

Minutes afterwards, Josh Lundstram pulled clear from McNulty in the penalty area and, while off balance, skewed his shot off target.

The Altrincham directors, who seemed to be outnumbering those of York, at least vocally anyway, continued to give their side encouragement from the stands.

Such applause was forthcoming when again Durrell was allowed to stroll to edge of the box before again shooting wide.

Wide crosses looked to be York’s best route to goal as, immediately after the second-half drinks break, Ferguson teased a great cross to Maguire who flicked it agonisingly close to the far corner.

York Press: City's loanee Adam Buxton is halted from advancing into the box by Altrincham's Andy White and Toby MullarkeyCity's loanee Adam Buxton is halted from advancing into the box by Altrincham's Andy White and Toby Mullarkey

Minutes later, Watson and his coaching staff had their hands on their heads once more when Moke made a terrific surge from his own half, found Ferguson who laid the ball to Burrow, who side-footed millimetres away from the bottom corner.

Despite all of York’s pressure, with 15 minutes left, Altrincham doubled their lead.

Alty floated a delivery in which Hulme’s header smacked against the bar with the ball falling for substitute Tom Peers who sparked jubilant celebrations with his finish.

It was his third goal in as many games against York at this ground this season.

The game was wide open in its final ten minutes and Altrincham almost had a third were it not for a goal-line block from Griffiths.

Six minutes were added on and York conjured one last chance. The ball fell to Bond from a long throw in but into the stand went the ball.

It said a lot about Altrincham too that their tenacious defence prevented any more opportunities until the full-time whistle.

York Press: Alex Kempster shakes off a challenge from Alti's Josh LundstramAlex Kempster shakes off a challenge from Alti's Josh Lundstram

York: Jameson 6, Griffiths 6, Tait 6, McNulty 6 (Langstaff (77), Newton 6, Ferguson 7, Buxton 6 (Bond 75), McLaughlin 5 (Maguire 53), Green 5 (Moke 53), Kempster 6, Burrow 6. Subs not used: Whiteley, Spratt, Bond.

Goals: None

Yellow cards: McLoughlin (28), McNulty (39)

Altrincham: Thompson, White (Richman 70), Hampson, Mullarkey, Hannigan, Moult (C), Mooney (Peers 64), Lundstam, Hulme, Hancock (Williams 79), Durrell (Mahon 79). Subs not used: Harrop, Wynne.

Goals: Hancock (8), Peers (76)

Yellow cards: Mooney (45), Durrell (46), Hulme (90)

Star man: David Ferguson. On the left flank, his crosses were a constant danger, particularly in the first half.

Referee: Scott Tallis