YORK City boss Martin Gray has pleaded with fans to continue supporting the team and insisted the club still have a fantastic opportunity to get promoted.

Boos rang out at Bootham Crescent at the end of this afternoon’s 2-0 home defeat to neighbours Harrogate Town.

Derisory chants about the hosts’ quality, meanwhile, were heard during the game from spectators in the David Longhurst Stand, who remain uncertain about the future direction of their club following owner Jason McGill’s decision to put the Minstermen up for sale.

In response, resilient City boss Gray said: “I understand the frustration from the crowd, but what I don’t understand is them singing that we’re a poor team. The players hear that, but it’s not the case.

“There’s been a lot of changes made at this football club and we are going through a big transition, but we’re in the play-offs. We’re not fourth-bottom and we’ve still got a great chance to achieve what we want to do “York City are in this league for a reason and it’s not an easy one. It’s everybody’s cup final when they come here and the players have found that hard to adjust to but, if everybody sticks together, I believe we have a fantastic opportunity to stay in the play-offs and win them.

“We didn’t know before the transfer window closed that we were going to lose our three main forwards to injury, but we’ve got to remain positive and show what we’re made of because, in these situations, you either lie down and get kicked around or stand up and fight. I know which way I’ve always been and the players know that too.

“I’m hurt because we’ve lost a local derby with the pride and passion that comes with that. I know about that because I’ve played against Newcastle and Middlesbrough for Sunderland.

“I thought we showed that for the first hour, but goals change games and they took their chances.”

Without sidelined attacking trio Jon Parkin, Alex Kempster and Louis Almond, Gray partnered wingers Connor Smith and Aidan Connolly together up front, with recognised centre-forwards Raul Correia and James Gray starting on the bench, along with second-year scholar Flynn McNaughton.

Gray introduced McNaughton and Correia during the second half, but bemoaned the team’s striking options afterwards, adding: “I thought Connor Smith got pulled back and could have got a penalty and their player sent off if he had gone down, but we didn’t look like we had a real goal threat.

“We knew that going into the game, because our three main forwards were out. We were just hoping for somebody to produce something different or to get a goal from a set-play.

“We ended up asking a 17-year-old Flynn McNaughton, who couldn’t get in the reserves a month ago, to pull something out of the hat for us, which is difficult. Connor Smith is also a utility player – not an out-and-out centre forward – but we were also asking him to start up there against a team challenging for the title.”

Despite the team’s deficiencies in the final third, however, Gray felt the game was lost because of mistakes at the other end of the pitch, which were capitalised on by ex-City loan striker Jake Wright and Mark Beck, who both netted in the second half.

“It was a very good, first-half performance,” the City chief reasoned. “We looked strong, created two or three half-chances and I thought we were the better team and felt very comfortable.

“We passed and moved the ball well, so I was really disappointed with how we conceded the two goals. For the first, Adam Bartlett didn’t kick the ball out well, Hamza Bencherif was dragged out of position into midfield and Dan Parslow was put one-on-one against their forward.

“It was a good finish across the keeper, but I’d like to see it again. For the second goal, Beck had a free header and that should not have been the case, because people have jobs to do at set-pieces.”

City now travel to Nuneaton on Tuesday night for the first of three successive away fixtures.

Gray is hopeful that on-loan pair Alex Pattison (ankle) and Jonny Burn (groin), who both missed out against Harrogate, may return.

Former Whitley Bay forward Kempster (hamstring) could also be involved, but Parkin (knee) and Almond (hamstring) will remain unavailable.