Dagenham and Redbridge striker Oliver Hawkins was the main reason for their win over York City, according to Minstermen boss Gary Mills.
The hitman added to his reputation as one of non-league football’s brightest prospects by putting in a fine performance at Bootham Crescent.
Hawkins scored his side’s first goal and set up their second for midfielder Luke Guttridge, as they recovered from their FA Cup exit at the hands of FC Halifax Town in the best possible fashion.
The defeat saw their hosts slip into the bottom four of the Vanarama National League and means they extend their run without a win to fourteen games in all competitions.
Mills, who has only been in charge for five of those games, was pleased with his side’s performance and believes that if Daggers striker Hawkins had been in a Minstermen shirt, he would be celebrating taking three vital points.
“I thought we played well today, we passed it well and created numerous chances” said Mills.
“As it always is in football, if you don’t take your chances, you don’t win games. We had the better chances today, but sometimes in football you say one player makes a difference and I think one player made the difference today.
“That is why Dagenham won the game.
“(Hawkins) was the one player that was the difference.
“They will be grateful he is in their side because he is the reason they have won the game
“If we had Hawkins in our side we would have won the game today”
Things don’t get any easier for Mills and his York City players, with Tuesday bringing the visit of Lincoln City to Bootham Crescent.
The Imps were buoyed by their win over National League leaders Forest Green Rovers on Saturday, cementing their place as title contenders.
Mills believes that his side’s defeat changes nothing in regards to their visit of Danny Cowley’s side, as he looks to bring in at least one player ahead of the game.
“Nothing has changed, even though we have played well today. We need two or three quality players.
“We find ourselves in the bottom four now, that becomes a bit of a stigma when you are there and we have got to make sure we work hard to get out of there.
“We have a tough game on Tuesday against a side that are flying and we have to go and produce another performance like that and hopefully that will get us the points.
“But all we can keep doing is plugging away and doing your job. My job until Tuesday is to try and find that one striker that can go and play down the middle with a bit of presence.
“We missed out on two this week that went elsewhere, that was disappointing but hopefully we can find the right one”
For now all Mills is focusing on is getting his side to the fifty point mark, which he believes will achieve National League safety.
Mills refuted claims that the game against Lincoln City was the biggest of the season so far, as he preferred to take a longer term view of the task ahead.
He said “We have played twenty games, we have twenty eight left to play.
“If my maths is right that is seventy four points left to play for and I know we need to pick up points.
“We have to get over that fifty mark, not get carried away.
“I said when I came in this is a big challenge and one that I feel will be a massive acheivement if we get those points.
“Players weren’t, in my opinion, good enough going forward and that is why I have made the changes I have.
“Now I want to make more”
Despite their defeat at the hands of Dagenham and Redbridge, Mills has been pleased with the progress his side has made.
Although results are yet to come, performances have improved since he sealed a return to Bootham Crescent in October.
Since that appointment he has witnessed an FA Cup exit against Curzon Ashton and a league defeat at Southport.
Progress, albeit slight progress, came with draws against Chester, Sutton United and at play-off challenging Eastleigh.
And with another improved performance in their defeat against the Daggers, Mills believes his side can continue there improvement as they get ready for a big test against Lincoln City.
“I watched my first game and although I didn’t pick the side in the FA Cup game, it was worrying” said the former Wrexham boss.
“Then we played Chester and Chester were much the better side, that was worrying.
“But since then we have gradually been improving, we did well against Sutton but we did better today than we did against Sutton.
“We retained the ball a lot better and made good decisions.
“Their keeper was the busier of the two but we have had to pick the ball out of our net twice. We keep going, it’s another weekend where we wake up on a Sunday morning thinking it’s hard to take.
“The nice thing is we have a game on Tuesday, so it’s not a long week feeling sorry for ourselves.
“We are back into work on Monday and we get ready for the game on Tuesday”
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)