YORK City are through to the Vanarama National League North play-off final after battling to a 1-0 win at Brackley Town.

Lenell John-Lewis scored the only goal of the game through a rebounded close-range finish after good build-up work by Mitch Hancox and Clayton Donaldson.

That strike arrived minutes before half time and there remained time for Brackley to win a late penalty. Yet again Peter Jameson proved his worth to this York side by producing a stunning stop from Jimmy Armson’s spot-kick.

While Brackley were hardly knocking down the door at finding a second-half equaliser, the goalkeeper had to show his best to deny Matt Lowe late on.

York suffered the double to Brackley in the regular season but appear to have saved their best form for the most vital stage of the season, showing plenty of character and resilience to win away at the side which finished second and 21 points above City after 42 league matches.

Of course, the job is not yet done. Either AFC Fylde or Boston United await in the final, the former away and the latter at home.

For many, only promotion will be seen as a successful season. But the impact of manager John Askey since his November arrived should be properly recognised particularly amid a hectic league season run-in.

York were in mid-week action once again before this trip to Oxfordshire.

Askey made just one change from the side which beat Chorley 2-1 on Wednesday. Donaldson replaced Jack McKay on the wing, the latter starting from the bench.

The York manager warned of Brackley’s direct and tough style ahead of the match and the early exchanges bore that out.

Maxim Kouogun and Sam Sanders struggled to handle the Brackley frontline in the opening minutes and Town’s top goal-scorer Lee Ndlovu should have scored after foxing the pair in the first five minutes.

He beat Kouogun before getting past Jameson and getting a shot off, only to see the former making a terrific last-ditch block. The ball fell back to Ndlovu who rushed a chipped shot wide.

As they did in the last meeting here, in which a goal from a corner won Brackley the match, the hosts continually tested York with well-delivered corners that were unfortunate not to pay dividends.

At the other end, City threatened through the ever-reliable Maziar Kouhyar, who continues to impress and look too good for this level with each passing week.

From a neat corner routine he had a shot blocked off the line.

The game fell into a scrappy lull around the half’s midpoint, with more fouls than shots on goal on show for the sold-out crowd.

The most eye-catching moment around the hour was the sight of travelling York fans watching the match from behind a fence, given the restricted number of away tickets handed following the post-match scenes in the Chorley win.

As the half approached its end, even without the benefit of hindsight, the match had 1-0 written all over it, particularly given that Brackley are a generally low-scoring and low-conceding side.

Lowe was the Saints’ stand-out threat and he came close on 37 minutes when he held off Kouogun before firing a shot a few inches over the crossbar.

An ambitious late penalty appeal by John-Lewis appeared to be York’s final offensive moment of the half but the Grimsby Town loanee picked himself up and forced in the game’s only goal on the stroke of the break.

Donaldson did brilliantly down the right flank and cut the ball back for Hancox who appeared to have made a mess of his touch but it fell kindly to John-Lewis.

The target man hit his initial shot at goalkeeper Danny Lewis but was first to the rebound, hacking the ball into the net.

It would later transpire that John-Lewis injured himself in both stretching for the loose ball and in wildly celebrating in front of the away fans, being subbed off for Kurt Willoughby at half time.

However in first-half stoppage time, Brackley created one last chance as a ball from the right went into Lowe who was hauled down by Kouogun.

As he did in the FA Trophy quarter-final win, Jameson produced a magnificent save, diving to his right, from Armson’s spot-kick.

After the break, as one would expect, Brackley were the side forcing the issue as they searched for an equaliser.

Jordan Richards blazed over a knocked-down header in the box but that was as good as it got for Town despite plenty of searching balls forward.

On the hour, Scott Barrow made a vital goal-line clearance from captain Gareth Dean’s header and a minute later, Askey again called for Matty Brown from the bench, taking off Hancox, and going to a five-man defence.

Far from sitting back, York created the next best chance as Willoughby stung Lewis’ palms with a near-post strike.

Remarkably, the hosts won 11 corners, nine more than City, in the 90 minutes and eventually produced a glorious chance from one such delivery.

After an initial header, the ball bobbled to Lowe six yards out straight in front of goal and his slow strike into the ground was somehow beaten away by Jameson.

His Clubman of the Year award looks more and more deserved as the weeks go on.

Brackley pressed on but York did not exactly have the kitchen sink thrown at them, perhaps due to the stop-start nature of a match which featured 26 fouls.

Lowe’s effort skimmed the outside of the post after a long throw-in but that was as close as Brackley came in the last 15 minutes.

As Town sank to their haunches at the final whistle, York headed for their jubilant away fans, walking over on only adrenaline having given everything physically into an arguably season-best display.

Brackley: Lewis, Myles (York 75’), Franklin (Gordon 69’), Murombedzi, Cullinane-Liburd, Dean, Lowe, Armson (Yusuf 86’), Ndlovu, Richards, Walker.

Subs not used: Lopes, Mitford, Yusuf.

Yellow cards: Richards

York: Jameson 9, Dyson 8, Kouogun 7, Sanders 8, Barrow 8, Wright 8, McLaughlin 8, Hancox 7 (Brown 61’ 7), Donaldson 8, John-Lewis 8 (Willoughby 46’ 7), Kouhyar 8.

Subs not used: Whitley, Woods, McKay.

Goals: John-Lewis (45’)

York’s star man: Peter Jameson. Produced another outstanding penalty save from Armson in the first half and denied Lowe in the second.

Attendance: Not given

Referee: Richie Watson

Match stats

Shots (on target): 12 (4) | 7 (4)

Corners: 11 | 2

Offsides: 0 | 2

Fouls committed: 14 | 12