FORMER Oxford United full-back Chris Carruthers believes York City can overhaul his old team in the battle for the Blue Square Premier title.

Long-time leaders Oxford, who are second but a point behind Stevenage with two games in hand, suffered their first home defeat on Saturday – a 1-0 reverse against Tamworth.

City, meanwhile, moved to within four points of the Kassam Stadium outfit after a convincing 4-1 home victory over Hayes and Yeading United, extending their unbeaten record at Bootham Crescent to a 20th game.

And Carruthers, who started the season with Oxford before joining the Minstermen after a brief loan spell at Crawley, believes there is still time for his former employers to falter further.

He said: “When I first came here I thought that, if we get things right and get results, you never know. It happens in football. A string of victories can close the gap and they won’t win every game between now and the end of the season. There’s always a chance and we’ve got to keep plugging away.

“It’s still a tough ask to get promotion because there are a lot of games to be played. But, if we carry on the way we are doing, then even if we miss out on the automatic top spot, the play-offs might be a bit pot luck, but nobody will want to play us at home.

“It’s always important to make your home ground a bit of a fortress and we have definitely done that. Teams don’t like coming here and have struggled against us.

“Anything can then happen on the day if you get to Wembley. I’m here for the long haul now having signed until 2011 and I’m ambitious like the club, the gaffer and (assistant manager) Andy Porter. I want to be getting back into the Football League and that’s the reason I came here.”

Prior to this season, Carruthers had managed just two goals during eight years and more than 250 games as a professional.

But the former Northampton and Bristol Rovers left-back’s opening goal for City on Saturday was his third of the season, having also netted at Crawley, and he felt he should have got more against Hayes, saying: “I could have had a hat-trick really with the one-on-one and the other that went just past the post.

“It’s nice to find myself on the scoresheet this season, but the main thing is contributing to the team winning games and moving up the table.”

Carruthers, who has been converted into a left-sided midfielder by City manager Martin Foyle, added that having the likes of Andy Ferrell and Craig Nelthorpe waiting in the wings, should his form dip, helps maintain his high performance levels.

He said: “We have a good squad of players and either of them could come in and do a job.

“As well as Andy and Craig, there’s also Adam Smith, Richard Pacquette, Jimmy Sangare and the three lads (Michael Gash, Kevin Gall and Ben Purkiss) who came on against Hayes.

“They would all walk into any Conference team and that competition keeps you on your toes, which has been seen in our results.”

Kettering-born Carruthers, also believes the three-week weather-enforced break from league action prior to Hayes’ visit actually benefited the Minstermen, rather than interrupting momentum, as Foyle had feared.

The 6ft 1in utility man said: “Saturday’s was a well-deserved, very good victory, especially after the break we’ve had. It was great to pick up where we left off.

“It’s been unusual because, normally over Christmas, there are so many games but it looks like the postponements worked quite well for us.

“It gave us a bit of time to shake off a few knocks and we’ve also been working hard over the last two weeks.

“It’s been no stroll in the park.”

Carruthers, rested in City’s FA Trophy first round trip to Hinckley, is now waiting to hear whether he will figure in tomorrow’s tie at Newport County.

Should he play, however, there will be no question of taking the match any less seriously than a league fixture.

The 26-year-old added: “As a player, you want to win every game and that’s our mentality.

“We will definitely go there trying to win because the rewards are great at the end of the competition.”