When Callum Howe headed balls away like it was a training drill, when right-back Ryan Fallowfield made chances on the overlap, when Olly Dyson and Dan Batty dropped deep to demand the ball, when Kai Kennedy came off the wing to pick a pass, when Dipo Akinyemi scored his fourth goal of a season which has so far yielded 10, and when Quevin Castro quickly responded to Lee Ndlovu's first equaliser, you could see York were not a hopeless case.
At other times – not least the defending for both Boreham Wood's goals in the 2-2 draw – you could see they were not bottom of the Conference by accident.
Southend United started and finished the day there due to a 10-point deduction for financial problems. York have only football to blame.
Tyler Cordner’s block protected the lead Akinyemi gave Wood in the last minute of a 59-minute first half, but shouldered the lion's share of the blame for Ndlovu's second equaliser.
Ryan Whitley’s tip-over from Angelo Balanta's 84th-minute volley was at odds with an unconvincing display from a man who started the season strongly on loan at Scarborough Athletic a division down.
Southend's 1-1 draw in the early kick-off at Halifax Town meant Ardley started bottom of the pile. You could say the only way is up but were it not for relegation.
It could have dampened the mood and sapped spirit in conditions which made watching uncomfortable, running brutal. But a new manager often gives a fillip – especially one with a track record like Ardley’s.
Encouraged by the crowd, York pushed to the end, Nathan Ashmore forced into terrific late saves from Alex Hurst, then from Dyson.
"We've got to be better," stressed Ardley. "But it was a start. There were things in there that made me think we can do it but there's some really tough games coming up."
Southend are Saturday's visitors, followed quickly by a trip to big-spending Oldham Athletic. Early leaders Barnet, then Solihull, complete September's schedule.
New managers usually try to build from the back, and Ardley and his assistant Neil Cox will have to work hard on that this week.
Chris Bush’s pass was gorgeous and Ndlovu's finish to make it 1-1 as close to cool as you could get on a sweaty Saturday, but it all came from York giving the ball away.
Ndlovu ran too easily across Cordner before a one-two and finish which delighted the 55 away fans.
It showed the fragility Ardley would surely have been expecting.
"I kept saying at half-time: If you try and win 1-0, we'll lose,'" he revealed. "I told them to keep playing, keep being brave, keep wanting the ball, keep going forward.
"When they got back to 2-2 I saw the lads' heads drop and when they came over for a drink I said, 'Don't you dare feel sorry for yourselves.'
"We could have won it, we could have lost it."
There were moments to cheer you, worry you and leave you scratching your head.
Fallowfield produced a pull-back to find a man free at the back post but the time Castro – Ardley’s "wildcard" – took controlling allowed Ashmore to save. When Kennedy played a brilliant pass inside the full-back, Fallowfield did it again.
This time it was Akinyemi free to give his side a 21st-minute lead.
The half was dragged out by a linesman’s lost contact lense but Cordner kept concentrated to clear a goalbound shot when a Whitley punch did not do its job.
The 57th-minute equaliser could have demoralised York but five minutes later, with Hurst waiting on the touchline to replace him, Castro picked up a second ball and beat Ashmore with a deflection.
Instead of finishing York off, Ndlovu’s quick equaliser set up an end-to-end last half-hour.
Femi Ilesanmi nearly won it against his old club but at the other end Billy Sass-Davies headed Maz Kouhyar's shot away and Ashmore saves from Howe and Dyson volleys left York cursing Michael Barlow.
The referee took mercy on the keeper when, in the 35th minute, he casually caught the ball about eight yards outside his penalty area.
But there was enough encouragement.
"In the first 25 minutes the fans might have been quite excited because I thought we played some good stuff,” said Ardley. "If the boys trust in what we're trying to do you might get a little bit more of it."
York City: Whitley; Fallowfield, Howe, Cordner, Crookes; Dyson, Castro, Batty (McLaughlin 45+7), Kennedy; Kouhyar, Akinyemi. Unused substitutes: Hurst, Siziba, Stott, Latty-Fairweather.
Boreham Wood: Ashmore; Coxe, Sass-Davies, Bush, Ilesanmi, O'Neil (Balanta 75); Griffiths; Marsh, Whelan, Abraham; Ndlovu. Unused substitutes: Payne, Stephens, Abayomi, Miller.
Referee: M Barlow.