PRE-SEASON expectations nosedived at AFC Halifax Town as York City went down 3-1 to their UniBond League hosts.

Craig Nelthorpe, meanwhile, added to the Minstermen’s misery on a rainy afternoon at the Shay with an 80th-minute red card during a final warm-up match that was anything but friendly.

Halifax trio James Dean, Richard Marshall and Ryan Crossley also had their names taken by referee Mike Denton, as did City’s Alex Lawless.

Winger Nelthorpe was sent off for landing an elbow on former City defender Mark Hotte.

Imagine the lovechild of, say, Robbie Savage and Dennis Wise and you might have a match for the irritating Hotte on Saturday.

Nelthorpe was pulled, kicked and pinched by the one-time Bootham Crescent club captain after the pair were pitted against each other in the second half.

Had he concentrated on his game, a series of dangerously-delivered crosses suggested Nelthorpe could easily have hurt right-back Hotte in the best possible manner.

Instead, the former Doncaster wide-man handed the ex-Oldham defender the most shallow of victories when he vented his frustration during an opportune aerial challenge.

Martin Foyle later argued referee Mike Denton should have allowed him to substitute Nelthorpe but flailing elbows must never go unpunished, regardless of the game’s low stakes.

By then, City were already trailing 3-1 after a poor display and the margin of defeat against opponents three divisions inferior could have been heavier had Ryan Crossley not hit a post late on.

Foyle fielded seven of last season’s squad in his starting XI and, worryingly, certain 2008/9 traits were evident in this display.

Michael Rankine’s 26th-minute equaliser was both well-crafted and well-executed but it proved the visitors’ first and last shot all day, while Neil Barrett and Levi Mackin were outshone by Halifax’s former Everton and Bradford youngster Scott Phelan in the middle of the park.

Perhaps of greater concern was City’s back four – so often the club’s saving grace last season – displayed a soft centre again, conceding three times for the second successive match. Richard Brodie, who with 23 goals last term has the most legitimate claim when searching for proven Blue Square Premier marksmen on City’s current roster, also failed to hit the target with two close-range headers.

In summary, other than Lawless’ tidy performance on the right and Rankine’s goal, there were few positives to take away.

Halifax went ahead on nine minutes after Nicky Gray shrugged off a lunging Ben Purkiss challenge in the box and, when the ball broke loose to Marshall, he fired firmly past Michael Ingham from 12 yards.

City responded with their best spell. Lawless provided an excellent cross for Brodie, who headed over from seven yards with the goal at his mercy and David McGurk sidefooted wide from an Adam Smith corner before the visitors levelled on 26 minutes.

Right-back Purkiss covered 70 yards before exchanging passes with Lawless and then crossing for Rankine, who guided the ball in off Hedge’s right-hand post from eight yards.

Five minutes later, Smith, playing on the left, picked out Brodie at the far post but the England ‘C’ international’s header from six yards again cleared the bar.

Dean was then cautioned for a late tackle on Ingham but scored the Shaymen’s second goal on 36 minutes, beating Purkiss to Phelan’s pass and then drilling into Ingham’s bottom left-hand corner.

City struggled for any form of forward momentum during the second period while centre-back Crossley went close to claiming a hat-trick for Halifax as he capitalised on uncertainty.

First, the former Huddersfield Town trainee headed narrowly wide from a Tom Baker free-kick and the pair combined again for Halifax’s third goal.

Baker’s 75th-minute corner saw Crossley rise unchallenged to head into Ingham’s bottom left-hand corner from 12 yards.

After the ball hit the back of the net, Purkiss and McGurk held an animated inquest before the latter walked towards the halfway line in disgust, leaving the former to debate culpability with fellow full-back James Meredith.

Further embarrassment was to follow when Nelthorpe was dismissed and, after a meaty challenge on Hotte by Mackin, Crossley struck the outside of a post.

Amid the mayhem, the first half-hour in a City shirt for £55,000 summer signing Michael Gash passed by fairly unnoticed, aside from a couple of grimacing occasions when his sore ankle was whacked a couple of times by the uncompromising part-timers.

City: Ingham, Purkiss, McGurk, Parslow, Meredith, Lawless (Russell, 75), Mackin, Barrett, Smith (Nelthorpe, 58), Rankine (Pacquette, 75), Brodie (Gash, 58).

Halifax: Jonathan Hedge, Aaron Hardy (Mark Hotte, 46), Paul Sykes, Ryan Crossley, Danny Lowe (Danny Codman, 46), Steve Payne, Tom Baker, Scott Phelan, Nicky Gray (Mark Peers, 56), James Dean (Mark Whitehouse, 75), Richard Marshall.

Referee: Mike Denton.

Attendance: 854.