AFTER five seasons, five different managers, dozens more players, a stadium move and a global pandemic, York City have finally escaped the Vanarama National League North.

Lenell John-Lewis’ goal after five minutes and Maziar Kouhyar’s strike five minutes before the finish was enough to earn York a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Boston United in the play-off final.

In many ways, this performance encapsulated the impact made by manager John Askey since his turnaround of City’s fortunes from February onwards.

It was not pretty or even particularly convincing, yet it was another winning display, full of a grit, determination and steel that felt like a far cry from the side inherited by Askey upon his November arrival.

Not that the performance will bother anyone associated with York City. After the heartbreak of back-to-back relegation and continuing off-field divides, the club can finally celebrate.

City are one step closer to where many feel they belong. Back in the top-flight of non-league and away from the ignominy of regional football.

York were unchanged from the side which won 1-0 at Brackley Town in the play-off semi-finals.

One of the main talking point of the week had the fitness of in-form frontman John-Lewis, who injured his thigh when scoring the winner at Brackley.

Manager John Askey said he was “really struggling” yet deemed him fit enough to start here. And what a decision that proved to be.

City won a throw in deep in Boston territory after breaking from a Boston corner. Scott Barrow launched the ball into the box and a first United head was unable to clear.

The looping ball dropped at John-Lewis’ feet and the target man casually swiped it into the bottom right corner, leaving goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst stranded on his line and cueing pandemonium in the record home crowd of 7,448.

Boston reacted pretty well thereafter, with captain Scott Shiels acrobatically shooting over from a corner before Connor Dimaio’s strike at Mitch Hancox sprung animated penalty appeals for handball, that were defiantly and justifiably turned away by the referee.

The match was pretty evenly fought as the half-hour mark passed, with neither opposition keeper being overly tested.

Danny Elliott and McLaughlin exchanged off-target efforts while Maxim Kouogun ran a good line from a corner but just missed the ball.

While John-Lewis was the stand-out for York with his goal and hold-up play, to the right of him, Clayton Donaldson was equally impressive.

The 38-year-old showed all his years of experience to cleverly win fouls and calm some home crowd nerves.

Just before a water break, the right winger - perhaps in his final game for the club - nicely worked some room before hooking a left-footed strike off the crossbar in by far the game’s best chance since the goal.

John-Lewis lashed a shot over the bar from long range, the striker unable to his personal or side’s goal tally on the stroke of half time.

York’s weakness for long spells of this season has been set-piece defending and they almost conceded from a corner straight after the interval.

Peter Jameson rather flapped at the delivery and Scott Garner was well-placed to capitalised but saw the chance too late and headed harmlessly over.

That early opportunity did not point towards any spell of dominance for Boston though.

United were growing increasingly frustrated by a rather stand-and-start period to start the second half, so much so that visiting manager Paul Cox was booked for his touchline antics at the match officials on the hour.

City reached the second-half drinks break with that one-goal lead still intact but found themselves very fortunate not to have conceded a penalty.

Scott Barrow, who was later taken off injured, took out Paul Green in the box, and although the midfielder did not have full control of the ball it was a clumsy challenge that was hugely fortunate not to be penalised.

The left-back was stretched off minutes afterwards with what appeared to be a knee issue, with Matty Brown replacing him and Sam Sanders going to left-back.

Having lost Michael Duckworth more than a month ago, for the final 20 minutes of the season, York would have defend without both their recognised full-backs.

Cox continued to cause drama on the touchline, briefly exchanging heated words with York coach Kingsley James at close proximity, further emphasising the tension inside the ground.

United were the side applying much of the late pressure, as expected.

Shane Byrne had a close-range free-kick deflect inches wide before Femi Seriki struck straight at Jameson.

As the final seconds dwindled down, Boston throw numerous bodies forward and in the dying embers, City managed to finish on a high.

Veteran Donaldson made a superb tackle in the final and set off Kouhyar down the right wing.

The Afghanistan international cut inside and beat Dewhurst at his near post with five minutes left.

The goalscorer briefly paused in the box, soaking up the noise before racing to the corner to embrace in the wild celebrations.

Any memories of back-to-back relegation heartbreak or off-field drama suddenly paused as the Community Stadium sprung into a never-before-seen atmosphere.

York City are back in the National League.

York: Jameson 8, Dyson 8, Kouogun 8, Sanders 8, Barrow 7 (Brown 71’ 6), Wright 9, McLaughlin (C) 8, Hancox 7, Kouhyar 9, John-Lewis 9, Donaldson 9.

Subs not used: Whitley, Woods, McKay, Willoughby.

Goals: John-Lewis (5’), Kouhyar (85’)

Yellow cards: Kouogun, Hancox

York’s star man: Akil Wright. Solid in his defensive work, battled hard all afternoon and ended another fine season on a high.

Boston: Dewhurst, Seriki, Shiels (C), Garner, Ferguson, Byrne, Abbott (Massanka 60’), Green, Dimaio (Preston 82’), Wright Jnr (Hanson 75’), Elliott.

Subs not used: Duxbury, Wright Snr.

Yellow cards: Abbott, Cox (manager)

Referee: Matt Corlett

Attendance: 7,448

Match stats

Shots (on target): 9 (3) | 8 (4)

Corners: 4 | 8

Offsides: 3 | 1

Fouls committed: 14 | 14