JUST three days before Hallowe'en, York City survived several scares on their way to eventually clinching a nervy FA Cup fourth qualifying round victory at Newcastle Benfield (Bay Plastics).

There were few tricks or treats for City's 406 supporters at the Northern League outfit with Clayton Donaldson's eighth-minute penalty proving the only difference between two teams separated by three divisions.

And the visitors rode their luck with a performance that could easily have turned into a horror show.

At face value, a 1-0 victory at North-East amateur opponents might be perceived as a professional job but that would be ignoring City's sloppy standards, general lack of quality and powder-puff finishing.

The Minstermen also looked vulnerable to long balls down the flanks, while they struggled to impose themselves in midfield and lacked mobility up front against a home side featuring two call-centre workers, a joiner and a fruit and veg salesman.

In fact, had it not been for determined defensive displays from on-loan centre-backs Luke Foster and Jason Goodliffe and some misfortune in front of goal for Benfield, City would have left the welcoming Sam Smith's Park with serious egg on their face.

Billy McEwan's men are still to beat any side by more than a one-goal margin in any of their nine wins this season, and a profligate first-half illustrated why as a succession of promising chances resulted in one poor shot after another which must have made watching 1955 Cup semi-final hero Norman Wilkinson wince.

Benfield started purposefully, forcing their first corner after just 28 seconds and Ian Graham could have given the home team a sixth-minute lead if he had not strayed needlessly offside.

But, seconds later, City scored the early goal all visiting Cup sides crave at lower league opponents.

Michael Dixon's lunge at Neal Bishop just inside the 18-yard box was deemed sufficiently reckless by referee David Richardson to result in a penalty and Donaldson sent keeper Andrew Grainger the wrong way from the spot, sidefooting confidently into his bottom left-hand corner.

Soon afterwards, Grainger bravely blocked from Donaldson and Craig Farrell, who then sent Steve Bowey clear on 20 minutes.

A goal seemed a formality as Bowey used all the available time to asess his shooting angles but then he somehow sidefooted wide of Grainger's near post.

As expected, Benfield shirked few challenges and Darren Craddock had to be replaced just past the half-hour mark following a bang to the head which came moments after Shaun Bell and Dean Fuller had both entered Mr Richardson's book for late tackles on Anthony Lloyd and Donaldson.

A stretching Bowey failed to convert Donaldson's right-wing cross on 40 minutes before Benfield squandered their first excellent chance to equalise.

Grainger's long ball was headed on by Richard Brodie and Mark Atkinson ghosted in between Craddock's replacement Ross Greenwood and keeper Tom Evans but lifted his shot over the bar.

In reply, Farrell curled a shot narrowly wide and Emmanuel Panther almost cleared the 25-foot netting erected behind the home goal with a particularly wayward effort.

Following the break, Bowey and Bishop tried half-hearted long-range attempts before Atkinson's through ball split the visitors defence and found Brodie, who skipped around Evans but fired against the outside of the post from a diminishing angle.

On 58 minutes, Brodie almost caught City napping again when his quickly-taken free kick brushed the sidenetting.

Shortly afterwards, Darryn Stamp headed wastefully over from eight yards after a Bowey cross.

Martyn Woolford injected some much-needed energy into the City team when he was introduced midway through the second half, testing Grainger from 25 yards and then seeing a powerful surge into the box end with a blocked shot but Benfield went close to forcing a replay four times in the last ten minutes.

First, Evans spilled Paul Buzzeo's low cross but Ian Ward's close-range shot was brilliantly blocked by Foster.

Phil Lumsden then headed over from six yards after a Buzzeo free kick and, moments later, another Brodie free kick was saved by Evans.

Finally, in the second minute of extra-time, Brodie capitalised on a Lloyd error but none of his team-mates could apply a finishing touch to his dangerously-driven cross into the six-yard box and a relieved City stumbled their way into the first round proper.

Match facts

Newcastle Benfield 0, York City 1 (Donaldson pen 8min)York City: Evans 5, Craddock 6 (Greenwood 31, 5), Goodliffe 7, Foster 8, Lloyd 5, Bishop 6, Bowey 6, Panther 5, Stamp 5, Donaldson 6, Farrell 5 (Woolford 66, 6).

Key: 10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - Retire.

Subs (not used): Convery, Parslow, Reid.

Star man: Foster - one of few players to maintain a decent level of performance.

Newcastle Benfield (Bay Plastics): Andrew Grainger, Kevin Leighton, Paul Hutchinson, Phil Lumsden, Dean Fuller, Mark Rasmussen (Paul Buzzeo, 78), Michael Dixon, Shaun Bell (Ian Ward, 46), Mark Atkinson, Richard Brodie, Ian Graham (Chris Laws, 64). Subs not used: Marc Walton, Karl Baston.

Bookings: Bell 24, Fuller 26, Greenwood 59, Graham 60.

Sent off: None.

Referee: David Richardson (Halifax). Rating: Did little wrong.

Attendance: 971.

Weather watch: Overcast, chilly and windy.

Game breaker: Had Steve Bowey taken his 21st-minute chance an avalanche could have ensued. Instead City were anxious until the final whistle.

Match rating: A poor display by City who were left clinging on for victory in the final stages.

Billy's verdict: "We have got to do better than that all over the pitch."

Player watch: Darryn Stamp

Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 1
Shots blocked: 0
Passes to own player: 17
Passes to opposition: 4
Crosses to own player: 0
Crosses to opposition: 0
Pass success rate: 80.1 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 0
Dribbles ball lost: 4
Dribble success rate: 0 per cent
Free-kicks won: 0
Free-kicks conceded: 1
Headers: 23
Tackles: 1
Offsides: 1
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 0
Bookings: 0
Final summary: Won a healthy amount of headers and showed glimpses of his ability but looked lethargic for long periods. None of his four goal attempts were particularly threatening with the worst a second-half header over the bar from eight yards. Rarely moved his marker around the pitch.