AN IMPRESSIVE Middlesbrough side inflicted a second pre-season defeat on York City at Bootham Crescent on Saturday.

Jamie Reed ’s second-half penalty cancelled out Scott McDonald’s 22nd-minute header in the Minstermen’s penultimate friendly, but Moroccan international Merouane Zemmama smashed in a deserved winning goal for the visitors two minutes from time.

Middlesbrough brought close to 650 fans for David McGurk ’s benefit match and, despite also having a fixture at Carlisle on the same day, sent a team that included former England, Real Madrid and Leeds United defender Jonathan Woodgate, making his first appearance since rejoining the club from Stoke this summer.

As well as ex-Celtic striker McDonald, £3 million defender Justin Hoyte and summer signings Mustapha Carayol and Emmanuel Ledesma also played, while teenagers Adam Reach and Luke Williams enhanced their first-team hopes with eye-catching performances in front of manager Tony Mowbray, who elected to watch this match instead of the Brunton Park clash.

For City, Paddy McLaughlin was again the pick of the outfield players while Dan Parslow continues to look as strong a contender as anybody for the midfield anchor role in Scott Kerr ’s absence after switching there from right-back during the second half.

Had it not been for a string of excellent Michael Ingham saves, though, the Minstermen would have suffered a heavier defeat, while Boro trialist shot-stopper Jacobo Sanz was rarely stretched at the other end with the visitors dominant after the break.

Following on from the 2-0 loss to Oldham, defeat meant City have been beaten in both of their pre-season home matches, albeit against higher league opposition, with top-flight Sunderland next up tomorrow.

Prior to kick off, captain for the day McGurk was given a guard of honour by both sets of players and entered the pitch to standing ovations from all four sides of the ground.

He also played the first 11 minutes of the match before making way for club skipper Chris Smith as the lifelong Boro fan eases his way back to full fitness following the catalogue of injuries that dogged him during the second half of last season.

During a leisurely first period, the Minstermen were largely restricted to hopeful long-range efforts while the Championship visitors netted with one of their few forays into the home penalty box.

Michael Coulson tried his luck from 25 yards for the first shot of the game that Sanz comfortably gathered. On 14 minutes, Lee Bullock hoisted an edge-of-the-box effort out of the ground and McLaughlin dragged a right-footed attempt wide from the same distance following a quickly-taken free-kick by Jason Walker and Coulson’s lay-off.

Ingham was called into action for the first time on 21 minutes when he dived low to his left to keep out a Reach drive that deflected off Chris Smith. Seconds later, the visitors led when Reach’s cross from the right saw McDonald plant a firm eight-yard header past the City ’keeper.

McLaughlin (twice) and Walker then both missed the target with further long-range shots before the break while Richard Smallwood hit the roof of the stand at the other end.

Middlesbrough controlled long spells of the second half with Ingham making the first of many impressive saves when he kept out another McDonald header from another Reach centre although the Australian forward was flagged offside.

Luke Williams also fired wide after the hosts were caught napping at a corner and the same player struck the inside of Ingham’s left-hand post with a curling shot after Bullock had lost possession in his own half.

Full-back Andy Halliday’s powerful drive was then repelled by Ingham’s outstretched left arm and Reach also saw a goalbound effort blocked by Tom Platt’s chest.

Boro continued to press with McDonald slicing badly wide in front of goal but Ashley Chambers ’ free-kick was saved by Sanz before the Minstermen were awarded a penalty after Rhys Williams’ reckless 71st-minute lunge on John McReady.

With Walker off the pitch, Jamie Reed assumed spot-kick duties and calmly sent Sanz the wrong way from 12 yards.

The visitors, though, quickly regained the ascendancy with McDonald flicking a cheeky effort wide with the outside of his boot and Ingham again diving low to keep out a 20-yard Curtis Edwards drive.

But City’s man-of-the-match was eventually beaten for a second time on 88 minutes when Chris Smith could only head Cameron Park’s right-wing cross out as far as Zemmama, whose first-time 20-yard shot went in off Ingham’s right-hand post.

City: Ingham, Challinor (Parslow, 46), McGurk (C Smith, 11), Doig, Fyfield (Blanchett, 46), Bullock (Platt, 63), J Smith, McLaughlin (McReady, 46), Coulson (Reed, 57), Walker (Knowles, 46), Johnson (Chambers, 46). Subs (not used): Musselwhite.

Middlesbrough: Jacobo Sanz, Justin Hoyte (Bruno Pilatos, 77), Rhys Williams, Jonathan Woodgate (Christian Burgess, 67), Andy Halliday (Ben Gibson, 67), Adam Reach, Luke Williams (Curtis Edwards, 77), Richard Smallwood, Mustapha Carayol (Cameron Park, 57), Emmanuel Ledesma (Merouane Zemmama, 57), Scott McDonald.

Attendance: 1,865 (648 from Middlesbrough).