A SERIOUSLY depleted York City on Saturday fell to their heaviest competitive defeat since Boxing Day 2018 in a 4-0 loss in Gloucester.

By the time the final whistle arrived, there was not one regular City defender in the back line, and attacking options were lighter with the absence of Clayton Donaldson.

Sean Newton left the field after jarring his knee, while during the week, Michael Duckworth had joined pre-season casualties Scott Barrow, Matty Brown and Josh King in the treatment room.

Regardless, Gloucester City were worthy winners on the day, matching the four-goal deficit inflicted on York by Darlington almost three years ago.

Here are five things we learnt.

1.It is about the response now

City came into the season off the back of a superb pre-season. After two games, the optimism is on the wane, and York - among the favourites for the National League North title - sit bottom of the table. Injury woes could also hang about for a few more weeks at least.

Notwithstanding all the injuries, Saturday was not a good performance. Hesitant in defence, York were overrun in midfield and strike pair Mark Beck and Kurt Willoughby were isolated and stood next to no chance.

It does not need to be pretty, and it does not need to be a dominant one, but York need a win on the board soon before this early-season setback becomes a mountain to climb in terms of both points and confidence.

2. Manager Watson is invested in this team

Watson’s earnest assessment in the immediate aftermath of the defeat showed that his stake in the team’s performances under his aegis is both professional and personal. After suffering the heaviest defeat of his managerial tenure at York, Watson was left reflecting on the “most disappointing day” of a career which stretches back over 30 years.

3. Cunningham will need more time before playing for City

The 18-year-old left-back Lewis Cunningham signed at York ahead of this season from League One outfit Doncaster Rovers and, for the briefest moment, must have seen an immediate opportunity for first-team football when left-sided full-back Scott Barrow suffered an Achilles injury.

But though Cunningham made the trip to Gloucester, he remained on the bench behind 19-year-old Jaden Charles, on loan from League Two Mansfield Town during the week before.

Charles’ experience - having made two senior appearances for his side to Cunningham’s none - must have been the deciding factor.

Whether with the under-19s or on loan, it looks as if Cunningham will be given more game time before he steps into the breach.

4. York still do not know what to expect from this season

Kidderminster and Gloucester have shown, again, that National League North is no doddle but City’s current injuries mean that their best, most cohesive team remains untested in the league.

Certainly, to judge City’s chances based on the performance against Gloucester would be wildly unfair.

5. Gloucester could be a force again this season

The Tigers are a different side to the one that started last season so strongly, but they still played with some swagger at the weekend.

Danny King gave Sam Fielding and Akil Wright a torrid time down City’s defensive right in the first half and Matt McClure showed huge confidence and skill to put away an audacious lob for Gloucester’s fourth.