THE return of York City’s one-time Angel of the North to Bootham Crescent proved a devilish experience for home supporters on Saturday.

Richard Brodie – the scorer of 37 goals for City during the 2009/10 season before moving on to Crawley – fired current club Fleetwood Town to within one win of the Blue Square Bet Premier title with a clinical second-half strike to settle an even encounter against his old employers.

The ex-Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics forward, introduced for another former Minsterman Peter Till on 51 minutes, initially struggled to impose himself on the game, straying offside, committing fouls and surrendering possession to the enjoyment of jeering City supporters.

But, on 73 minutes, Brodie provided those same spectators with a painful reminder of his finishing ability.

Springing City’s offside trap, the 24-year-old striker chased down a pass from fellow frontman Jamie Vardy through the right channel.

As he was allowed to shift the ball on to his deadly left foot, home supporters then collectively held their breath before Brodie fired emphatically into former team-mate Michael Ingham’s bottom right-hand corner from ten yards.

It might not be the modern way when returning to your old club, but Brodie went on to celebrate his goal fully, as he had promised before the game.

His emphatic effort represented the only occasion City’s back line was seriously breached, with the £1 million-rated Vardy not afforded a single sight of goal.

Vardy, who has netted 32 times this season and is coveted by a host of Championship clubs, had little joy when pitted against Dan Parslow and Chris Doig in the first half.

Teenage left-back Ben Gibson then passed the sternest examination of his defensive talents when Vardy was moved to the right wing during the second period.

In fact, Ingham only made his first save of the match a minute before Brodie’s match-winning strike – routinely collecting Magno Vieira’s tame 25-yard effort.

At the other end of the pitch, however, the hosts also laboured to create chances.

As Minstermen chief Gary Mills continues to look for a satisfactory replacement for the injury-dogged Jason Walker as the lone central striker in his preferred 4-3-3 formation, Erik Tonne was surprisingly selected for the role against Fleetwood.

The on-loan Sheffield United utility man won some clever headers but did not always look comfortable leading the line before swapping roles with left-winger Jamie Reed for the second half.

Like Tonne, Reed rarely troubled Fleetwood centre-backs Steve McNulty and Nathan Pond who, for all their defensive determination, looked susceptible to pace.

City later turned to Matty Blair and Matthew Blinkhorn through the middle with subs Adriano Moké and Ashley Chambers operating down the flanks in a switch to 4-4-2 that caused the visitors’ back four greater problems.

Earlier, Andy Mangan had lashed the first shot of the game wildly across Ingham’s goal after a quickly-taken corner almost caught the home team napping.

At the other end, Tonne and Eugen Bopp failed to hit the target with free-kicks. Tonne’s header from another Bopp dead-ball situation also only required a routine save from Cod Army ’keeper Scott Davies.

On 25 minutes, the home bench were screaming for a penalty when Blair tripped Shaun Beeley but the City winger, who was inside the box, appeared to stretch his big toe a couple of centimetres over the whitewash before making contact with the Fleetwood right-back.

Lee Fowler, who dictated proceedings from midfield for the visitors in a manner City fans have come to expect from the crocked Scott Kerr, then saw his subsequent free-kick deflect off the head of James Meredith before bouncing off the top of Ingham’s crossbar.

The half ended, though, with Gibson driving over from 20 yards and Tonne seeing a wayward shot strike McNulty before finding the arms of Davies.

After the break, Vieira headed wide at the near post following a Vardy cross but, on 67 minutes, Lanre Oyebanjo drove over the David Longhurst Stand having charged towards the far post to meet a Chambers left-wing cross following good work by Moké and Tonne.

Blair and Paddy McLaughlin then combined to tee up a ten-yard chance for Chambers that forced Davies into a low save before Moké’s inviting cross from the right was begging for a City player on the far post after Doig strode out of the home defence.

Within three minutes, Brodie had broken the deadlock but, as they have proved so many times this season, City never accept defeat without a fight.

Moké stabbed a chance wide after stretching to beat advancing ’keeper Davies to a Blair pass and Meredith’s downward header from McLaughlin’s corner was then kicked off the line by Fowler.

An 88th-minute header by Blinkhorn, from Oyebanjo’s cross, then struck Davies’ right-hand upright but City could not claim the equaliser their performance merited.

Results elsewhere meant the Minstermen’s play-off outlook altered little at the final whistle and, if any consolation can ever be taken in defeat, Mills’ players are still to be beaten by more than a one-goal margin this season.

Match facts

York City 0, Fleetwood Town 1 (Brodie 73)

York City: Michael Ingham 7, Lanre Oyebanjo 7, Chris Doig 8, Daniel Parslow 8, Ben Gibson 8, Eugen Bopp 7, James Meredith 7, Paddy McLaughlin 6, Matty Blair 6, Erik Tonne 6, Jamie Reed 6.

Subs: Adriano Moké 7 (for Bopp, 45), Ashley Chambers 7 (for Reed, 65), Matthew Blinkhorn (for Tonne, 76). Not used: Fyfield, Brown.

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

Star man: Doig – never flustered during an assured return to the City back line.

Fleetwood: Scott Davies, Shaun Beeley, Steve McNulty, Nathan Pond, Alan Goodall, Jamie McGuire, Peter Cavanagh (Magno Vieira, 19, Gareth Seddon, 86), Lee Fowler, Peter Till (Richard Brodie, 51), Jamie Vardy, Andy Mangan.

Subs not used: Kieran Charnock, David Stephenson.

Booked: Bopp 23, Blair 25, Meredith 80, Beeley 81.

Shots on target: York 5 Fleet 4.

Shots off target: York 4 Fleet 2.

Corners: York 5 Fleet 5.

Offsides: York 0 Fleet 5.

Fouls conceded: York 16 Fleet 13.

Referee: Scott Duncan (Newcastle).

Rating: made errors along with his assistants.

Attendance: 4,048 (477 away fans).

Move of the match: Moké, Tonne and Chambers creating Oyebanjo’s second-half chance.

Finish of the match: Brodie’s strike was as clinical as it was crucial.