TWO days before the traditional time to commemorate St Valentine, York City produced a performance full of heart against league leaders AFC Wimbledon.

Unfortunately, for the Minstermen and their 400-plus fans, there was little to love about the final outcome of an even game.

Sam Hatton’s 20th-minute free-kick, deflected past Michael Ingham after taking a nick off Jonathan Smith, earned the Wombles revenge for their 4-1 thrashing at Bootham Crescent 12 days earlier.

Had the away team displayed a greater cutting edge in the final third of the pitch, however, Gary Mills’ men might have left Kingsmeadow with some reward for their efforts.

Lone central striker Michael Rankine grew increasingly frustrated during his 66 minutes on the pitch with the powerful target man being expertly shackled both on the deck and in the air by impressive home defender Brett Johnson.

Looking to change his side’s attacking fortunes, Mills switched to 4-4-2 shortly before Rankine’s departure but opportunities to equalise then went begging – most notably an excellent Ashley Chambers chance in the 70th minute.

And, despite having almost twice as many goal attempts as their top-of-the-table hosts, City could easily have gone down 3-0 had Ingham not made two fine second-half saves.

The visitors began the match brightly with captain Chris Smith’s downward header forcing an early stop from Seb Brown following Chambers’ corner.

But the Wombles forged ahead on 20 minutes after one of their first attacks of the game.

Chambers raced back towards his own penalty box to try to catch the equally pacy James Mulley.

The on-loan Leicester City striker only succeeded in tripping Mulley, however, with Hatton’s firmly-driven 25-yard free-kick seemingly covered by Ingham, who had dived to his right only for the ball to spin down the middle of his goal after hitting Smith.

City responded with a curling Chambers effort that narrowly missed the target while recalled midfielder Neil Barrett also tried his luck with an acrobatic overhead kick that Brown plucked out of the air.

At the other end, former Wales under-21 international Daniel Parslow, preferred to Liam Darville at right-back, made a courageous covering block to deny Hatton a second goal while Danny Kedwell went close with a 15-yard shot on the turn seconds before the interval.

In between, Scott Kerr’s rising shot from the edge of the box had forced Brown into action again after the ex-Scarborough midfielder had exchanged passes with Rankine.

Parslow’s free-kick into the penalty box also bounced narrowly wide after being left by everybody and skidding quickly off the unpredictable surface.

Early in the second half, Chris Smith headed over from namesake Jonathan’s left-wing cross.

Ingham, however, was quick off his line to save with his feet after Kedwell had been sent clear by Rashid Yussuff.

The City ’keeper then fell to his left to keep out another deflected drive from Kedwell before Chambers missed the visitors’ best chance of the match.

Played through by Leon Constantine’s perfectly-weighted pass, Chambers fired across the face of goal with only Brown to beat.

Constantine also delivered a cross that fellow substitute Jamie Reed headed over from on 72 minutes while Chris Smith’s attempts to bundle in a far-post opportunity were thwarted by Hatton.

But the Minstermen were thankful for Ingham’s reflexes again on 76 minutes when, falling backwards, he threw out his left boot to divert Mulley’s close-range effort over his crossbar after Kedwell had powered past David McGurk to deliver an inviting low cross.

Moments later, another Reed chance drifted wide after the former Bangor City striker had cut in from the right and Peter Till also threatened with two 20-yard shots.

Chris Smith then made a great challenge to deny Kedwell again in the second of four minutes of stoppage time.

But James Meredith still went close with an angled drive for City and more good defending by Hatton saw him stop Constantine in his tracks to concede the final corner of the match.

Ingham was sent up for the flag kick but it was Parslow who almost provided a dramatic finish to the afternoon.

His powerful header was caught by Brown, though, to earn the reincarnated Dons their first-ever points against City, who had won each of the previous three meetings.

Match facts

AFC Wimbledon 1 (Hatton 20), York City 0

York City: Michael Ingham 8, Daniel Parslow 7, David McGurk 6, Chris Smith 8, James Meredith 7, Scott Kerr 6, Jonathan Smith 7, Neil Barrett 7, Ashley Chambers 6, Michael Rankine 6, Peter Till 7.

Subs: Jamie Reed 6 (for Barrett, 61), Andre Boucaud 7 (for J Smith, 66), Leon Constantine 7 (for Rankine, 66).

Not used: Darville, Carruthers.

Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.

City’s star man: Chris Smith – back to his best at the heart of defence.

AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Sam Hatton, Brett Johnson, Jamie Stuart, Gareth Gwillim, Rashid Yussuff (Fraser Franks, 83), Steven Gregory, James Mulley, Christian Jolley, Danny Kedwell, Luke Moore (Ryan Jackson, 82).

Subs not used: Ismail Yakubu, Jack Turner, Mark Nwokeji.

Booked: Gwillim 88.

Shots on target: Dons 5, City 6.

Shots off target: Dons 4, City 10.

Corners: Dons 8, City 7.

Fouls conceded: Dons 9, City 13.

Offsides: Dons 3, City 3.

Referee: John Hopkins (Wickford).

Rating: dealt with most things competently.

Attendance: 3,532 (407 from City).

Challenge of the match: Parslow’s decision to put his body on the line to block a goalbound Hatton effort.

Miss of the match: Chambers’ 70th-minute drag wide.

Save of the match: Ingham’s quick reaction to Mulley’s point-blank shot.

Head to head - Scott Kerr v Steven Gregory

Both midfield anchormen were unfussy in their work and screened their back four effectively during a tight contest without being spectacular. The pair were disciplined in their positional play although Gregory perhaps played a littler deeper than City’s deadline day signing, allowing the attack-minded Rashid Yussuff and James Mulley to forge forward when possible.

Kerr also managed a decent first-half shot that tested home ’keeper Brown.