FOLLOWING his former club’s raucous celebrations after wrecking York City’s play-off aspirations last season, Tamworth old boy Chris Smith was determined to silence the Lambs on Saturday.

It was Smith, however, that was left looking sheepish at the final whistle, having conceded two second-half penalties as City put on a real horror show to go down 2-1 in Staffordshire.

The Minstermen took their unbeaten away record back on the road, hoping to recover from their last outing – a morale-sapping second successive home defeat against Alfreton – but left the Lamb Ground with question marks growing about the side’s ability to fulfil their early-season potential.

Scintillating victories over Kettering (5-1) and Barrow (3-1), as well as the hard-fought 0-0 draw at Fleetwood, rightly raised hopes of a genuine promotion push at Bootham Crescent this term.

But, in the last two games, City’s performances have alarmingly dipped to a standard unprecedented since Mills’ arrival in North Yorkshire 11 months ago.

The former European Cup winner expects, demands and deserves better and his players must quickly prove they boast the consistency, commitment and confidence levels required to match Mills’ ambition of finishing the campaign as Blue Square Bet Premier champions.

Throughout Saturday’s game, City were too weak in the challenge and too poor in possession.

Along with skipper Smith, David McGurk endured an uncomfortable afternoon in the centre of defence and was fortunate not to be sent off for a second bookable offence midway through the second half.

Left-back James Meredith, meanwhile, is struggling for the form that earned him a much-improved deal in the summer and Scott Kerr has been unable, as yet in 2011/12, to stamp his authority on games in the same manner as he did last season.

In Kerr’s defence, however, he was not aided by a reluctance in his team-mates to play the simple pass he regularly asked for and fellow midfielder Adriano Moké spent far too much of the first half on the periphery of the action prior to being replaced at the break.

Moké has already proven in his short City career that he is capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat but he needs to harness his ability to hare around the pitch more maturely and effectively over 90 minutes.

In attack, Jason Walker grabbed his sixth goal of the season on 84 minutes with another impressive header from a cross by Ashley Chambers who could, nevertheless, still be more decisive in the final third of the pitch.

A passage of play that perhaps summed up City’s afternoon as succinctly as any other came 33 minutes into the game when goalkeeper Michael Ingham picked out Chambers on the left flank with a 70-yard crossfield pass but the latter then kicked the ball out of play as he failed to find Moké from 15 feet away.

Andre Boucaud, left on the bench following his long-haul flight from Trinidad and Tobago, was certainly missed for his ball retention and tempo-dictating qualities.

Fellow unused substitute Daniel Parslow, meanwhile, must be close to deserving a start in his preferred position of centre-half although he could now be denied that opportunity by Lanre Oyebanjo’s hamstring injury, meaning he might be required to fill in at right-back again.

A low-key opening to the match saw home midfielder Jay Smith prod wide from the edge of the penalty box and left-winger Danny Mills poke a shot across the face of Ingham’s goal.

Nabil Shariff also headed wide from a Smith free-kick before the visitors mustered their first shot of the match – an ambitious 35-yard effort by Jon Challinor on 21 minutes that was drifting wide when Tamworth ’keeper Jonathon Hedge comfortably gathered.

Shortly afterwards, Meredith and Chambers combined to create a 15-yard chance for Walker that he skewed to the far post where a lunging Challinor could only find the sidenetting.

At the other end, Jay Smith snatched at a 15-yard effort before Chambers scuffed a volley wide for City when Oyebanjo’s long throw was only half cleared.

Tamworth, though, went close to breaking the deadlock twice in the closing stages of the first half.

Mills saw a deflected effort flash narrowly wide after play had been swiftly switched from right to left following a mistake by Meredith.

Another ricochet from Daniel Bradley’s 25-yard drive then beat Ingham before also striking Chris Smith.

The City captain’s first touch carried the ball towards goal before he recovered to hack clear off the line.

For the restart, City changed to 4-4-2 initially with Jamie Reed brought on to partner Walker in attack but Tamworth remained determined hosts.

On 47 minutes, Shariff’s excellent 25-yard effort flashed just wide of Ingham’s left-hand post with the City ’keeper at full stretch.

Six minutes later, the Lambs were in the lead after left-back Sam Habergham pumped a free-kick high into City’s penalty box.

Smith then gripped his arms around Keiron St Aimie’s shoulders as the ball fell out of the sky and, after referee Graham Horwood pointed to the spot, the home striker grabbed the ball himself and confidently sidefooted into Ingham’s bottom right-hand corner.

Substitute Patrick McLaughlin called Hedge into action from 20 yards on 64 minutes before a back-pedalling McGurk, booked for tripping Shariff on the edge of City’s 18-yard box in the first half, was lucky to remain on the pitch after an almost identical offence on the same player.

A second calamitous moment for Smith followed on 72 minutes when he clumsily clipped the heels of Danny Thomas in a crowded box.

Iyseden Christie assumed penalty-taking duties having been introduced into the action four minutes earlier and converted emphatically into the roof of Ingham’s net.

City were handed a little-deserved lifeline when 5ft 9in striker Walker leapt prodigiously to meet Chambers’ right-wing cross and direct his header to the left of a helpless Hedge.

Another intelligent header from Walker then teed up Reed, who hooked over, before Smith saw a scrambled 90th-minute effort blocked as the visitors belatedly displayed a bit of purpose to their play.

Christie might still have put the outcome beyond doubt when he held off Smith and McGurk challenges before forcing Ingham into a low save but the Minstermen waited until the sixth minute of stoppage time to fully test Hedge.

He proved equal to McLaughlin’s well-struck 20-yard volley, though, tipping the Northern Ireland under-21 international’s effort over to condemn City to a first away defeat in five fixtures.

Match facts

Tamworth 2 (St Aimie pen 53; Christie pen 73 ), York City 1 (Walker 84)

York City: Michael Ingham 6, Lanre Oyebanjo 7, David McGurk 5, Chris Smith 4, James Meredith 5, Jon Challinor 5, Scott Kerr 5, Adriano Moké 5, Matty Blair 5, Jason Walker 6, Ashley Chambers 6.

Substitutions: Jamie Reed 5 (for Moké, 46), Patrick McLaughlin 6 (for Blair, 54), Liam Henderson 6 (for Challinor, 66). Not used: Daniel Parslow, Andre Boucaud.

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: Oyebanjo – positive whenever he got on the ball.

Tamworth: Jonathan Hedge, Richard Tait, Francino Francis, Paul Green, Sam Habergham, Nabil Shariff (Ashley Cain, 83), Daniel Bradley, Jay Smith, Danny Mills (Iyseden Christie, 68), Kieron St Aimie, Kyle Patterson (Danny Thomas, 28).

Subs not used: Evangelino Valentim, Joe Collister.

Yellow cards: McGurk 29, Walker 62, St Aimie 64.

Shots on target: Tamworth 4, City 4.

Shots off target: Tamworth 8, City 6.

Corners: Tamworth 6, City 11.

Offsides: Tamworth 1, City 4.

Fouls conceded: Tamworth 16, City 12.

Referee: Graham Horwood (Bedfordshire). Rating: second penalty was an easy decision and first looked a correct call as well.

Attendance: 1,012 (375 from City).

Mistake of the match: The second penalty conceded by Smith with Thomas in no position to threaten City’s goal.

Head to head - Jay Smith v Jon Challinor

Former Aston Villa apprentice Smith – made Tamworth club captain by Gary Mills last summer – was a busy presence from the beginning of Saturday’s match.

He was a starting point for most of Tamworth’s best first-half moments and not afraid to shoot when presented with an opportunity.

Challinor was less available to receive possession for City but did ghost into a goalscoring position in the first half before eventually making way for Liam Henderson on 66 minutes.