A HAT-TRICK from Kurt Willoughby saw York City through to the first round of the FA Cup in a 3-1 victory at Morpeth Town.

A first glance at the scoreline would fail to accurately reflect the large part that Morpeth had in the closely-contested replay.

They just about shaded the number of chances but lacked a striker in Willoughby’s mould.

All three finishes from the City forward were well taken as he become the first scorer of a hat-trick for the Minstermen since 2017.

While the most important matter at hand was securing the home tie against Buxton, Willoughby’s return to goalscoring form is a welcome one for City.

Willoughby was one of two key players recalled by Steve Watson following the 1-1 draw at the LNER Community Stadium, with he and Clayton Donaldson replacing Jason Gilchrist and Mackenzie Heaney.

That meant that Donaldson and Willoughby joined Mark Beck in a front three of a 4-3-3, with Olly Dyson in an advanced central role.

As far as small advantages could impact on a game, the odds seemed stacked in Morpeth’s favour. The astroturf pitch bettered suited to the hosts as were the surrounding stands, with only two seated stands in the tightly compact ground.

While this was admittedly an FA Cup tie, it felt telling of how far City have fallen in recent years and the long distance from the heady days of the Football League.

If York fans were hoping for a nerve-calming first 10 minutes, then it certainly did not arrive. While Morpeth had little in the way of few clear-cut chances, neither did City.

Perhaps expectedly given the tight nature of the pitch, both sides struggled to hold onto the ball and there was few calm moments of possession.

For Morpeth, sole frontman Jake Foalle was causing a threat with his runs from long ball in behind, though City were just about dealing with the part-time teacher.

York though had the first chance of the game as stand-in captain Paddy McLaughlin delivered a fine cross which Beck met but could only steer inches too high and wide.

Town quickly responded with a glaring chance from a cross of their own. Peter Jameson attempted to punch clear a corner but missed the ball completely, instead hitting the back of a York head and flicking off the post.

York retained an equaliser against their lower-tier opposition, the quality of their full-time attacking play.

It was displayed when they went in front of 18 minutes with their first shot on target. An incisive pass from centre-half Sam Fielding picked out Willoughby who beat the onrushing goalkeeper to the ball and chipped it over his head and into the top right corner.

That goal seemed to have settled City nicely into the contest and their passing was soon crisper and chances did not seem far away, with final passes the only lacking ingredient.

Morpeth remained a threat, particularly down the right flank against makeshift left-back McLoughlin, and forced Fielding into a timely block from a corner.

On the half hour mark, the Minstermen were eventually rewarded for their classy build-up play.

A Dyson through ball found Willoughby’s well-timed run and, as the home fans hopefully turned to the assistant referee for an offside flag, the striker finished his one-on-one past Dan Lowson’s near post.

Even at 2-0, Morpeth’s attacks could not be curtailed. As half-time approached, they still had the run of the right side and after a corner from that wing, the ball dropped kindly to Andrew Johnson, whose first-time swing rattled the post.

On the stroke of the break, somewhat against the run of play, Donaldson had a penalty appeal turned away, with Watson later seemingly remonstrating with the referee on the pitch.

The second half started pretty quietly and, after 10 minutes, Jameson’s smart hand clear from a corner was all the goalmouth action on offer.

But the two sides exchanged goals in the space of a couple of minutes as the tie kicked back into life.

First, Willoughby completed his treble by cutting inside from the left and curling a right-footed shot just beyond the reach of Lowson, despite the keeper getting fingertips to it.

Almost instantly after, Morpeth finally converted a right-sided delivery, with Ryan Donaldson tapping in from a perfect low cross.

Town’s tails were up after pinching the ball off Akil Wright before Johnson shot over. And Wright, the away support felt, should have been sent off when he brought down Ryan Donaldson, though the man in the middle felt a yellow was most appropriate.

The chances continued to come Morpeth’s way as Donaldson missed the target from a clever free-kick routine and Johnson headed wide.

The introduction of Heaney brought some impetus back to City’s play, as Woods’ effort was millimetres away from the left corner.

The substitute then seemed to have been stamped on by a defender, though the referee adjudged otherwise.

Jameson was able to comfortably deal with a couple of late Morpeth chances thereafter, with Heaney going close at the other end.

But the two-goal deficit was comfortable enough to see City safety secure a first round spot.

Morpeth: Lowson, Walton (Reid 75’), Turner, Sayer (L. Henderson 59’), J. Henderson (C), Morris, Foalle, Noble, Johnson (Ramsey 83’), Donaldson, Taylor. Subs not used: Hodgson, Anderson, Phillips, Reid, Ramsey, Oliver, Henderson.

Goals: Donaldson (57)

Yellow cards: Donaldson (76), Turner (90)

York: Jameson 7, Duckworth 6, Wright 7, Fielding 8, McLaughlin (C) 6, Dyson 8, Hopper 7, Woods 7, Willoughby 8, Donaldson 6 (Heaney 7 62’), Beck 6. Subs not used: Campbell, Heaney, Degruchy, Haase, Cunningham, Knowles, Lancaster.

Goals: Willoughby (18, 30, 56)

Yellow card: Wright (60)

Star man: Kurt Willoughby. Three well-taken goals from the striker was the difference between the two teams.

Referee: John Mulligan

Attendance: 1,637


Shots (on target): 10 (3) / 8 (4)

Corners: 6 / 3

Offsides: 1 / 3

Fouls committed: 10 / 6