A DISMAL second half display had United licking their wounds on a disappointing day at Plainmoor.
The Gulls arguably shaded the first 45 minutes against the expensively-assembled visitors from York City, but nobody could have predicted the Yellow collapse that followed the interval.
Wes Fletcher started the slide on 52 minutes and it was game over when Josh Carson curled a beautiful free-kick into the top corner. A third from former Gull Ryan Jarvis was a whole pile of salt into that very open wound.
United manager Alan Knill made three changes to the side narrowly beaten at Newport last weekend and the big shake-ups were at either end of the pitch. Krystian Pearce has succumbed to illness and was replaced at centre-back by new loan signing from Blackburn Anthony O’Connor.
The Irish youngster was partnered in the heart of defence by Thomas Cruise, who continues to deputise for knee-injury victim Aaron Downes.
Knill also reverted to his normal 4-4-2 formation, which meant a return to the bench for holding midfielder Damon Lathrope. Karl Hawley was preferred to Callum Ball in attack and Ade Azeez made his first start in Yellow after impressing as a goal-scoring substitute at Newport.
York boss Nigel Worthington was forced into two changes from the side that recorded an excellent 4-2 success over Portsmouth seven days ago. Craig Clay replaced the suspended Lewis Montrose in midfield and the injured Lanre Oyebanjo lost his right-back spot to loan defender Luke O’Neill.
United started like a side determined to build on the 4-2 thumping of Cheltenham at Plainmoor a fortnight earlier and the first real break ended with a Hawley cross half-cleared to Ben Harding, who saw his curling effort deflected over.
The Yellow train continued rolling forward in a frantic opening 10 minutes, although both Kevin Nicholson and Hawley needed to tweak their collective radars after send long-rangers well wide of Michael Ingham’s sun-drenched goal.
The same pair combined in better fashion moments later, as Hawley headed narrowly off-target from a Nicholson cross. At the other end, United needed a super block from Dale Tonge to prevent Ryan Brobbel from getting a shot on goal.
Ingham was called into his first meaningful spurt of action on 18 minutes, as he comfortably swallowed a low shot from Jordan Chapell after good strength by Azeez had found the young winger free in the right channel. Chapell’s next involvement was a first-time cross headed just wide by Hawley.
An intriguing first half continued with York looking bright down the flanks but United’s central-defensive pairing of Cruise and O’Connor were enjoying a hugely impressive start to life together.
The afternoon then dipped in terms of quality, with both sides toiling hard in midfield without being able to unleash their creative weaponry, although the Gulls were again grateful to the outstanding O'Connor for blocking a Fletcher shot following a cross to the near-post from Jarvis.
United were forced into an unwanted change five minutes before the interval, as Harding limped off with an ankle problem and Knill sent on Lathrope as the readymade replacement.
It was the final act of a half that fizzled out to a tepid conclusion and the second period started in similar fashion until Billy Bodin found space to run at the York defence.
The Welshmen drew his man and then fed the ball wide for Hawley, but Ingham was quick to narrow the angles and block the eventual shot. The visiting ‘keeper was also equal to a Bodin snapshot moments later.
It would soon prove a pivotal intervention, as the Minstermen scored from their very next attack and what a superb goal. Knill will undoubtedly scrutinise what could have been done better defensively but the first touch from Fletcher was sublime, and the finish lashed past an exposed Martin Rice.
Worthington sought to force home the advantage by introducing the fresh legs of Ashley Chambers for Brobbel, but Lathrope had a different plan, spearing a 25-yard deflected drive inches wide.
United were slowly building the pressure and a looped cross from Chapell found O’Connor, who planted an equally loopy header back across goal that had Ingham briefly struggling under heavy pressure from Hawley.
York’s next move was to replace Fletcher with Ryan Bowman, while the Gulls removed Azeez for Elliot Benyon. Amid the touchline activity, captain Lee Mansell was left a relieved man when referee Michael Naylor judged O’Neill’s stumble over the skipper’s outstretched leg as a dive.
Sadly for the Yellows, it was merely delaying the pain, as Carson took the congratulations for a stunning free-kick curled into the top corner. Rice got a hand on the shot but the ball bounced over the line via United’s crossbar.
The Gulls turned to the bench and Courtney Cameron was the choice to replace Bodin, while Tom Platt came on for O’Neill in Worthington’s final switch of the afternoon.
United, however, had completely switched off and the third goal was simply unacceptable. A routine corner picked out David McGurk totally unmarked and despite Rice producing a briliiant save to stop the first header, Jarvis was in the right place to force the ball over the line.
The atmosphere inside Plainmoor had fallen through the floor and York were knocking the ball around with understandable confidence, and looked more likely to add to their tally than United claw something back.
A difficult afternoon was summed up when Hawley stabbed over from close range with five minutes left on a clock that mercifully ran out to allow the TQ1 faithful a trudge home to what was hopefully a nice dinner.
Gulls [4-4-2]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 29 Anthony O’Connor, 21 Thomas Cruise, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 12 Jordan Chapell, 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 8 Ben Harding [6 Damon Lathrope 41], 10 Billy Bodin [11 Courtney Cameron 70]; 9 Karl Hawley, 23 Ade Azeez [26 Elliot Benyon 66]. Substitutes [not used]: 16 Callum Ball, 20 Nathan Craig, 31 Daniel Sullivan, 33 Conor Thompson [GK].
Booked: O’Connor 67
York [4-4-2]: 24 Michael Ingham; 30 Luke O’Neill [18 Tom Platt 72], 5 David McGurk, 6 Daniel Parslow [capt], 3 Ben Davies; 12 Josh Carson, 8 Craig Clay, 29 Elliott Whitehouse, 27 Ryan Brobbel [10 Ashley Chambers 56]; 9 Wes Fletcher [19 Ryan Bowman 64], 11 Ryan Jarvis. Substitutes [not used]: 1 Chris Kettings [GK], 4 Chris Smith, 20 Tom Allan, 28 Sander Puri.
Booked: O’Neill 65
Referee: Michael Naylor
Attendance: 2,559 [174 away].