YORK City suffered their first National League North defeat of the season after going down 2-1 at Leamington in their first game out of another two-week isolation period.

All three goals came a thrilling opening quarter-of-an-hour, with early strikes from Junior English and Lance Smith giving the Brakes an ideal start before the skilful Olly Dyson pulled one back.

As the half progressed, both sides gained more of a foothold in the contest and play contracted largely to the centre of the park.

To say the Minstermen have been unable to train properly for much of the 18 days between Southport and Leamington, their energy levels were impressive though they occasionally lacked the finesse and concentration to get through a well-marshalled Leamington side.

Leamington were worthy opponents, though they could have conceded an equaliser at the final whistle when the otherwise excellent Harry Bunn headed a free kick over from a yard out.

Steve Watson made just one change to the starting 11 from the trip to Southport on November 10, Josh King stepping in at right-back in Michael Duckworth’s absence. Owen Gamble missed out altogether.

Captain and scorer of two free kicks in the win at Haig Avenue, Sean Newton continued in the middle of the four-man back line, with Robbie Tinkler shielding the defence.

Ahead of Tinkler were the midfield trio Paddy McLaughlin, Wright and Dyson.

Jake Cassidy and Jack Redshaw returned to starting and substitute berths, respectively, after Redshaw came on at half-time for Cassidy last time out.

There were four changes to the Brakes’ starting line-up, with Kaiman Anderson a fresh face following Leamington’s 1-1 draw with AFC Fylde on Tuesday.

Callum Gittings, who was shown a straight red, dropped to the bench along with Danny Waldron, while midweek substitutes Junior English and Simeon Maye were on from the start.

Leamington announced the loan signing of Taylor Allen from League Two outfit Forest Green Rovers late in the week. The 20-year-old forward went straight into the squad on the bench.

Sam Osborne continued in midfield after scoring the injury-time equaliser against Fylde.

The introduction of English proved to be a useful one as he got Leamington off to a good start with a good strike in the fourth minute.

Three minutes later, it was two as Osborne powered down the left and, with a couple of stepovers, got past King and powered the ball across the face of goal for Lance Smith to stab in at the far post.

Olly Dyson pulled one back in special style in the 12th minute, a drag-back getting him away from his man before he unleashed a right-footed 25-yard strike to keeper Jake Weaver’s right.

York cleared from Leamington’s attack from kick off and Bunn was immediately clear through on the defence and accelerated impressively into a clearing. His low shot from range was parried into Cassidy’s path, whose follow-up was blocked for a corner.

The end-to-end nature of the opening quarter-of-an-hour abated somewhat for a brief period, though both sides got away good efforts. Osborne had a drilled free kick caught by Pete Jameson, though it was probably rising over. Dyson looked like he had spent isolation working on futsal-style close control and a neat touch got him between two men but he pulled his shot just wide.

The breathlessness did not subside, however, and the focus became a midfield battle in which neither side could really settle. Both put together some nice, swift passing moves, and both were guilty of some naughty fouls.

Where the shots-on-goal tally had ticked over regularly in the opening exchanges, the fouls counter did towards the end. York had the chance for an effort on goal with half-time looming but Weaver was able to collect Scott Barrow’s touchline free kick in-swinger rather too easily. City might have hoped for better, as some of the visitors’ corners had been quite threatening.

McLaughlin was gifted a chance to deliver inside the box early in the second half when Barrow was dispossessed after a storming run down the left. The ball fell to the midfielder in space but his tame cross was easily cleared. Barrow picked up a yellow as he backtracked and slid in rashly to stop the break.

After a fair first-half performance, McLaughlin looked strangely off the pace at the start of the second and he was brought off for Redshaw.

Leamington’s main goal threat for the 15 minutes after the restart came from crosses. A misplaced ball in from the right had Jameson backtracking to palm away from his top corner while Smith was outmuscled as he looked to get on the end of a left-wing delivery into the six-yard box.

York’s play began to be characterised by a certain sloppiness. A loose pass from Barrow allowed Smith the chance to run on the centre-backs while Cassidy gave away a foul stretching for King’s under-hit ball.

Possibly York’s brightest attacking spark, Bunn got himself into a couple of good positions, first bullying his way into area and getting off a shot before guiding a header over from Barrow’s ball in. His powerful 80th-minute cross evaded everyone.

Leamington: Weaver, Martin, Morley, Clarke, Morrison, Lane, Anderson (Meredith 81), Maye, Smith, English (Gittings 71), Osborne (Allen 74). Subs not used: Waldron, Gittings, Taylor.

Goals: English (4), Smith (7)

York: Jameson 6, King 5 (Potts 71), Tinkler 6, Brown 6, Newton 6, Barrow 5, McLaughlin 5 (Redshaw 56), Wright 6 (Woods HT), Dyson 7, Bunn 7, Cassidy 5. Subs not used: Flatters, Kennedy.

Goals: Dyson (12)

Yellow cards: Tinkler, Barrow

Star man: Harry Bunn. With City in a lull around the hour mark, Bunn looked the most likely to pull them out of it and should have scored right at the death.

Referee: Simeon Lucas

Stats for Leamington / York

Shots (on target): 6 (4) / 9 (2)

Corners: 0 / 7

Offsides: 0 / 5

Fouls: 13 / 12

Yellow cards: 0 / 2