CHRISTMAS came early for Evo-Stik Division One South leaders Yate Town at Winchester City yesterday.

In a week when the festive lights were switched on in the city, Winch gift-wrapped the three points for their visitors by squandering a host of chances in a frustrating 1-0 defeat.

Their mini strike force of Oli Bailey and Tyrell Mitford could easily have had two apiece, while tiny wideman Jake Rawkins was denied by keeper Tom Lewis’s legs.

Joe Cook fired wildly over, Yate hit their own post trying to deal with Simba Mlambo’s cross and centre-back Josh Harfield – who went off early in the second half following a sickening clash of heads with teammate Cook – nodded Jamie Barron’s corner over.

Arguably, the most glaring chance of all arrived on 68 minutes when the buzzing Bailey stole possession and unselfishly squared to Mitford, but his shot was somehow blocked on the line.

The Bluebells had their moments but, with no exaggeration, City keeper Ryan Pryce hadn’t had a meaningful save to make before picking the ball out of the net with 83 minutes gone.

Bailey had just seen yet another chance elude him when an unwelcome Guest – Yate midfielder Joe Guest – was played in by sub Sam Kamara to nick the only goal of the game.

“I thought we were excellent, I’m proud of the performance,” said City boss Craig Davis.

“Even their manager said sorry for the smash ‘n’ grab. That’s easy to say when you’re walking away with the three points, but second half it was literally all us.

“Yate have got height, power and a lot of seasoned players in this league, but I can’t even say well done to them for staying in the game because it was down to us for missing simple chances.

“It’s not nice being on the end of a result like that when you’ve played so well, but if Yate are top, then we know we’re not a million miles away. If we keep playing like that we’ll be fine. It was so obvious we should have won the game.”

Harfield, who suffered a cut eye, is doubtful for Tuesday's (7.45pm) trip to his old club Fleet Town, who won 2-1 at Cinderford but remain rock bottom with seven points.

City, now eight league games without a win, are five points better off in 15th. They are in the process of re-signing centre-back Rob Flooks from South Premier outfit Gosport Borough.

Winchester City: Ryan Pryce, Ollie Griggs, Danny King, Joe Cook, Joe Hayward, Josh Harfield (Brad Gale, 51), Simba Mlambo (IK Hill, 85), Jamie Barron, Oli Bailey, Tyrell Mitford, Jake Rawkins (Brett Cunningham, 79). Subs (not used): Harvey Clark, Craig Davis.

Referee: Thomas Holden.

Attendance: 195.