COLIN Walker described his last visit to Crawley Town as his “darkest day” in football management.

On Saturday, his return heralded probably the darkest opening day of any football season with the Broadfield Stadium floodlights switched on for the full 90 minutes.

Unlike four months earlier, however, it was home boss Steve Evans – and not Walker – that was left gloomy at the final whistle.

As a result, the Minstermen chief and his players can now put the memory of that 6-1 mauling behind them and deserve huge credit for the lessons learned from that atrocious April encounter.

In the build up to this fixture, Walker insisted his side will have a stronger backbone this season and summer signings Daniel McBreen and Mark Greaves certainly added some much- needed muscle in West Sussex.

On-loan goalkeeper Artur Krysiak, although he only had to face one on-target shot, was also a positive presence between the sticks, meaning a repeat of the dead-ball disasters that bedevilled the visitors during the two clubs’ last meeting never looked on the agenda.

Centre-backs David McGurk and Danny Parslow also gave determined displays to help the 18-year-old Pole enjoy a clean sheet on his debut.

City’s robust approach did, admittedly, sail close to the wind at times – most notably when Daniel McBreen clattered into Jake Wright and Richard Brodie hauled Chris Giles to the floor in an incident that led to the home captain being substituted shortly afterwards.

Both were cautioned but if the Minstermen can channel that aggression then, on Saturday’s evidence, City can be a tougher proposition for their Blue Square Premier rivals this season without necessarily dispensing with their football principles. Brodie epitomised a great team spirit at the Broadfield Stadium, occupying an unfamiliar left-wing position and working unselfishly down the flank, meaning the untimely departure of Martyn Woolford was not as keenly felt as might have been expected.

The persistent former Newcastle Benfield striker was also unfortunate not to join fellow wide man Craig Farrell on the scoresheet, going close three times and also having an injury-time effort dubiously disallowed.

Earlier, Crawley midfielder Dannie Bulman fired narrowly wide from 30 yards five minutes into the new season before Brodie was presented with his first chance of the afternoon.

Simon Rusk, revelling in the responsibility of being City’s creative midfield force, released Brodie down the left channel with a perceptive through ball on the halfway line.

The 21-year-old forward then bore down on the home goal, but his firm drive was saved at the near post by Simon Rayner with Farrell screaming for a square pass.

An unchallenged Parslow then headed over from eight yards following Rusk’s corner before Brodie clipped the top of the crossbar with a curling 25-yard free-kick.

Krysiak did well to hold a 20-yard shot on the turn by Jon-Paul Pittman after 25 minutes, but that proved the eastern European’s only save of the afternoon.

At the other end, skipper Greaves, giving a disciplined and intelligent display in the midfield anchor role, headed into Rayner’s hands from another Rusk corner.

After the break, early Crawley pressure forced a couple of corners that City coped with comfortably and, on the hour mark, Brodie tumbled under pressure from Brad Thomas in the penalty box but referee John Hopkins remained unmoved.

Ben Wilkinson, who had been largely peripheral to proceedings, then rattled the post with a rising short from 25 yards and Brodie, following up, was unable to control the rebound and the ball rolled back to a relieved Rayner.

On 67 minutes, McBreen held off a challenge from Jamie Stevens to collect Krysiak’s long punt forward, but his shot lacked the power to beat Rayner.

It was left to Farrell to break the deadlock four minutes later after he was gifted possession by Stevens who, despite being under no pressure, made a hashed attempt at clearing an overhit Parslow free-kick into the penalty box.

Farrell was quick to capitalise, bursting past the hapless Stevens and firing across the face of Rayner’s goal and in off an upright from ten yards out.

Crawley’s first goal attempt after the interval came on 88 minutes, with substitute Simon Weatherstone slicing woefully wide from 25 yards.

Krysiak then climbed impressively to pluck a dangerous Thomas cross out of the air before Pittman caused a few late palpitations for the visitors, turning towards the City goal eight yards out before aiming a flashing effort wide.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, though, City should probably have been celebrating a second goal their dominance deserved.

Brodie, cutting in from the left, steamrollered past an intimidated Glenn Wilson – the proverbial frozen rabbit in headlights – before driving past Rayner, but Hopkins penalised the 6ft 2in striker and disallowed his goal.

It mattered little, though, as the official’s final whistle signalled the first time City have kicked off a Conference campaign with three points following four previous failed attempts. The victory also ended a run of three straight defeats at Crawley which had grown more emphatic by the season.

Match facts

Crawley Town 0, York City 1 (Farrell 71)

City: Artur Krysiak 7, Ben Purkiss 7, Danny Parslow 8, David McGurk 8, Mark Robinson 7, Craig Farrell 7, Mark Greaves 8, Simon Rusk 8, Ben Wilkinson 7, Richard Brodie 8, Daniel McBreen 7.

Substitutions: None.

Subs not used: Josh Mimms, Darren Kelly, Onome Sodje, Niall Henderson, Andy McWilliams.

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: Brodie – gave City an ever-willing outlet on the left flank – a crucial factor in the success of Colin Walker’s 4-5-1 formation. Deserved a goal after clipping the crossbar and seeing another effort disallowed.

Crawley: Simon Rayner, Glenn Wilson, Jamie Stevens, Chris Giles (Brad Thomas, 30), Jake Wright, Danny Forrest (Simon Weatherstone, 66), Dannie Bulman, Thomas Pinault, Lewis Killeen, Jon-Paul Pittman, Jamie Cook (Douglas Anton, 75).

Subs not used: Sam Rents, Nick Morgan.

Yellow cards: Wright 9, Brodie 22, Thomas 38, McBreen 40, Greaves 58, Weatherstone 75, Wilson 81.

Shots on target: Crawley 1, York 7.

Shots off target: Crawley 4, York 2.

Corners: Crawley 3, York 2.

Fouls conceded: Crawley 14, York 20.

Offsides: Crawley 7, York 0.

Referee: John Hopkins (Wickford). Rating: demanded respect as can be expected under the new FA campaign. Just about earned it.

Attendance: 1,372 (357 City fans).

Shot of the match: Ben Wilkinson had a quiet game, but exploded into action when his 65th-minute strike thudded against an upright.

City player watch: ’Keeper Artur Krysiak

Shots on target faced: 1

Shots held: 1

Shots parried: 0

Crosses caught: 2

Crosses punched: 0

Crosses dropped: 0

Kicks to own player: 12

Kicks to opposition: 16

Kick success rate: 42.9 per cent

Throws to own player: 3

Throws to opposition: 0

Throw success rate: 100 per cent

Fouls conceded: 0

Fouls won: 0

Tackles: 0

Yellow cards: 0

Final summary: The 18-year-old Birmingham City ’keeper gave a very confident display in goal despite having little to do. He did well to keep hold of the one shot on target he faced and his handling and decision making was impressive when required. His kicking was reliable and he would have found team-mates more regularly had McBreen swapped places with Farrell on the right touchline from his dead-ball clearances.