SPORTING director Dave Penney insisted York City should have won by a greater margin after watching a host of chances go begging during a 2-1 victory at Darlington.

City boss Martin Gray celebrated a win on his return to the club he left for Bootham Crescent in October after Sean Newton’s deflected strike and a Jon Parkin penalty turned the tables following Reece Styche’s opening goal for the hosts just before half-time.

But Parkin, Newton, Alex Pattison and sub James Gray all failed to capitalise on further great second-half openings and, summarising the display, Penney said: “I didn’t think there was much in the first half, before a good finish by Styche.

“In the second half, the manager went 4-4-2 and we were a bit more direct, because we hadn’t been turning them enough. They had got a bit of joy by doing that and some simple balls down the channels put them on the back foot, because no defender likes running towards their own goal and, with better decision making in the final third, we probably should have had three or four more goals.

“Sometimes, people were selfish and were trying to make a name for themselves instead of passing to someone in a better position. We shouldn’t have been hanging on at the end and it could have been 3-1 or 4-1 because, when there’s only one goal in it, anything can happen.

“But we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get beaten for the manager and it was great to come away with three points because of everything that was surrounding the game with Martin.”

Following the festive double over North Ferriby, the victory at Darlington represented the first time City have won three games on the trot since April 2014 and Penney reasoned that the squad are now gaining a greater understanding of Gray’s methods.

“I think it’s finally clicking with the players what Martin wants,” Penney pointed out. “Perhaps the games against North Ferriby gave us more confidence to pass the ball and, if you look at how we played in this game and how we did at Boston at the start of last month, it’s like chalk and cheese.”

But the former Doncaster boss added that the Minstermen could still benefit from a little of the devilment Darlington’s marksman Styche displayed, with his goal following an earlier aerial clash that meant on-loan rookie centre-back Jonny Burn had to be replaced after just 20 minutes.

“Reece Styche is a clever player,” Penney explained. “Jonny’s eye closed up, but he’s with us to learn about that type of thing.

“I don’t think Styche elbowed him, but his arm was in a position that meant Jonny headed it. You come up against these masters of the dark arts, shall I say, but, most importantly, you must read those situations and try and land one on somebody yourself like that.

“Sometimes, I think we have to be smarter, because we jumped straight back up when fouls on people like Alex Pattison and Amari Morgan-Smith would have probably been yellow cards if they’d stayed down.”

Both sets of supporters in the 2,500 crowd helped make the contest a real derby occasion and Penney, who was also in charge of Darlington himself from 2006 to 2009, went on to suggest that he preferred a packed Blackwell Meadows to the considerably, less modest 25,000-capacity Reynolds Arena. “I was manager when we used to play in front of 3,000 at Darlington and there was no atmosphere, so I think it’s better,” he declared.

Newton was recalled to the starting XI in the one change to the side that defeated Ferriby twice, with on-loan Grimsby midfielder Sean McAllister dropping to the bench and Penney is now hoping that the City skipper can rediscover the form he displayed prior to the current regime’s arrival in North Yorkshire.

“It was good for him to get his first goal for Martin, because I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Sean since coming here from how I remember him playing against us when I was at Guiseley,” Penney said. “But it was good to get him back and he made us stronger.

“Hopefully, we can now add a couple more players this month to make us stronger again, because it’s all about building momentum now.”

The club remain hopeful of extending Pattison’s loan from Middlesbrough, but Penney confessed that McAllister might now return to Blundell Park, stressing: “Maybe Sean won’t want to stay if he’s not playing.

“He came here to get games, which he has done, but Martin just felt it was right to play Adriano Moke deeper against Darlington, because David Syers normally runs forward for them and we believed he could stay with him better.”