TWENTY-ONE hours and 46 minutes of football – that is how long York City striker Daniel McBreen had waited for a league goal.

The departing Australian’s scuffed, match-winning strike against Eastbourne, however, could prove the most crucial effort of City’s 2008/9 campaign, with Mansfield forward Rob Duffy’s late equaliser at Woking another contender.

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Both ensured the Minstermen enter the last week of the Blue Square Premier season outside the bottom four and with their chances of surviving the dreaded drop appearing much healthier than they had on Saturday morning.

Admittedly, it is difficult to bestow hero status on McBreen.

There were high hopes when he signed for City in the summer but his season, aside from selected FA Trophy highlights, has been more a story of ‘Desperate Dan’ than ‘Supermac.’ In his defence, the North Queensland Fury-bound forward might point to a lack of quality service as a reason behind his 21-game drought with a little justification. But, against Eastbourne, that would have proven a flimsy argument.

Few through balls have been better weighted this season than Levi Mackin’s incisive pass for McBreen’s decisive 34th-minute goal.

City, lining up in a 4-4-2 formation for the second successive match, were also positive from the first whistle with Adam Smith raiding regularly down the right wing and full-back Ben Purkiss providing several enticing crosses from the same flank.

Christian Smith also swung in a succession of dangerously accurate corners to the far post which, no doubt, had a watching Mark Greaves salivating on the substitutes’ bench.

The Minstermen forced three flag kicks within the first five minutes and might have opened the scoring when David McGurk headed back across the face of goal, following a Smith delivery, only for Richard Brodie to head over from a yard out.

Eastbourne’s best passing move of the match ended with Michael Ingham smothering a seventh-minute Allan Tait shot after Paul Armstrong’s lay-off.

But City responded strongly with Adam Smith inches away from converting a low cross from Brodie on the quarter-hour mark.

McGurk and Christian Smith both then missed the target with headers before McBreen struck.

The former Scunthorpe striker, hanging on the shoulder of Eastbourne’s last defender, was expertly released by Mackin down the right channel.

Bearing down on Lee Hook’s goal, McBreen failed to strike the ball cleanly, but it bobbled into the Eastbourne ’keeper’s bottom right-hand corner from 12 yards.

On 41 minutes, Brodie glanced a header wide from Purkiss’ cross and City entered half-time in the ascendancy. The Minstermen lost some of their attacking impetus in the second period, but went close to doubling their advantage on 69 minutes.

Purkiss cleared on the edge of his own penalty box and then led a swift counter attack when he charged 80 yards to receive the ball back from McBreen.

From the byline, Purkiss then picked out Brodie, but his rising 12-yard effort was parried by Hook and Christian Smith’s follow up attempt was blocked.

McGurk headed against the outside of a post from the resulting corner.

On 80 minutes, Foyle decided to throw on youth-team coach Steve Torpey after McBreen failed to mount an aerial challenge near the halfway line. The 38-year-old veteran immediately won his first header and, moments later, laid a ball off to Mackin, who sliced wide from 25 yards.

Torpey also declined the opportunity of a free run on goal after a long Ingham punt, electing to lob from the edge of the penalty box instead, only to see his effort sail wide.

An anxious five minutes of stoppage time was then endured by home fans as Mackin was forced to leave the pitch having had his nose bloodied after final substitute Onome Sodje had been introduced into the action.

Armstrong twice ghosted into promising positions in the City penalty box only to shoot tamely at Ingham, but Adam Boyes also tried his luck from 40 yards at the other end when Hook left his net unguarded.

Boyes’ chip proved too high but mattered little when Rotherham referee Richard Wigglesworth’s whistle was warmly received by City’s players, management, directors and supporters.

Match facts

York City 1 (McBreen 34), Eastbourne 0

York City: Michael Ingham 7, Ben Purkiss 8, David McGurk 7, Danny Parslow 8, Shaun Pejic 6, Adam Smith 8, Levi Mackin 8, Christian Smith 8, Adam Boyes 6, Daniel McBreen 6, Richard Brodie 6.

Substitutions: Simon Brown (for A Smith, 74), Steve Torpey (for McBreen 80), Onome Sodje (for Brodie, 88).

Subs not used: Robinson, Greaves.

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: Purkiss – reliable defensively and could quite easily have provided assists for a further three City goals.

Eastbourne: Lee Hook, Ben Austin, Darren Baker, Marc Pullan (Matt Smart, 21), Neil Jenkins, Jay Lovett, Danny Brown, Paul Armstrong, Matt Crabb (Simon Wormull, 74) Allan Tait, Jack Jeffrey (Nathan Crabb, 55).

Subs (not used): Pat Harding, Jacob Mingle.

Bookings: D Brown 50.

Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (Rotherham).

Rating: appeared to slightly favour the home side, which meant few complaints from a supportive City crowd.

Shots on target: York 5, Boro 4.

Shots off target: York 11, Boro 3.

Corners: York 6, Boro 2.

Fouls conceded: York 10, Boro 13.

Offsides: York 6, Boro 1.

Attendance: 2,487 (79 away fans).

Pass of the match: Mackin’s superb through ball for McBreen.

Cross of the match: Purkiss’ centre for Brodie that the City striker headed wide.

Block of the match: The challenge on City’s Christian Smith that prevented his third goal for the club.

City player watch: Christian Smith

Goal attempts on target: 0

Goal attempts off target: 1

Blocked goal attempts: 1

Passes to own player: 20

Passes to opposition: 8

Crosses to own player: 3

Crosses to opposition: 2

Pass completion rate: 69.7 per cent

Dribbles ball retained: 1

Dribbles ball lost: 1

Dribble completion rate: 50 per cent

Headers: 17

Tackles: 5

Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 4

Fouls won: 0

Fouls conceded: 1

Offsides: 0

Yellow cards: 0

Final summary: Christian Smith has rediscovered the form that suggested he could be a useful signing during his early days with the club. Looking fitter than he has done previously, Smith illustrated his goal threat from midfield by twice going close after charging into the penalty box. His corner delivery was particularly impressive, as is illustrated in his crossing figures, and he was also strong in the air, winning 18 headers.