DANNY Kearns’ departure from York City could see midfield pair Jonathan Smith and Lee Bullock both return to Bootham Crescent next week.

The npower Championship outfit Peterborough have recalled Kearns from his loan spell with City and Gary Mills could now follow suit by cutting short Smith and Bullock’s temporary stints at Luton and Gateshead respectively.

Neither player can be brought back prior to tomorrow’s clash at Rochdale, however, where Paddy McLaughlin and vice-captain Scott Kerr will come into contention for midfield starting places.

On Kearns’ exit and the possible repercussions for Smith and Bullock, City chief Mills said: “To get the phone call about Kearnsy was a disappointment because he’s been doing well and gave us something a bit different but those are the rules.

“There’s also an option for us to bring back Jonathan Smith on Monday and we could do the same with Bully, who I’m getting good reports about from Gateshead. They are both getting games which is important and it might be time to bring one or both of them back but we will be fine tomorrow.

“We’ve still got options and I made a decision, along with my coaching staff, straight away about who will play instead and we’ve worked on that in training.”

On the prospect of Northern Ireland under-21 skipper McLaughlin starting for the first time in five matches, Mills added: “There’s a possibility Paddy will play. He’s champing at the bit to get back in. He went away with Northern Ireland and I’ve left him out for a couple of games so it might be time to bring him back.”

The City boss also added he had not ruled out bringing Kearns back to North Yorkshire once the transfer window reopens in January, saying: “He’s a quality player who was getting better and better so we will have to see whether he comes back at some stage because, if players of his ability become available again, you want to bring them back.”

On-loan Aldershot striker Alex Rodman, meanwhile, could also be missing at Spotland, along with six-goal top scorer Ashley Chambers with both players having joined fellow forward Oli Johnson in the treatment room.

“We’ve got a little bit of a problem with Ashley Chambers (stomach) and Alex Rodman (hamstring),” Mills revealed.

“Neither of them trained yesterday and they are two wide players so that could be an issue for us because Johnson is still injured as well – I’ve forgotten his first name because it’s been that long since I’ve seen him.

“But, if they’re all unavailable, it just means somebody else getting a chance.”

A recall for £60,000 striker Jason Walker would be one option.

Walker has started on the bench for the last two matches having previously been an ever-present in City’s 2012/13 starting line-ups and Mills said: “Players have to realise that they have jobs to do.

“Jason’s first job is to score goals but his other attributes such as holding the ball up, making life difficult for defenders and linking up with the wide-men and midfielders are also important. He’s got to do that better than he was doing before I left him out and he knows that.”

Despite a run of seven games without a win, Mills insisted the reason for the team’s disappointing sequence of results is one that can be more easily addressed than others.

“When you’re not winning games, you look at reasons why and the main reason is we are not putting our chances away,” the City manager reiterated.

“That has to be one of the most positive reasons you can have for not winning games and, as I’ve said before, there’s no major crisis. Our shape could be better when we haven’t got the ball and that could be the second explanation, behind not taking our chances, for not winning games.

“But there could be a lot more concerning reasons such as a lack of form, poor passing or our final ball not being good enough and nothing has changed for me. We’ve played well this season and should have had more wins but we’ve got to get back to putting those balls in the back of the net.

“We are 19 games in and we’ve got our game in hand on most teams tomorrow so it’s an important match. We are sitting 17th but are just six points behind Rochdale, who are eighth.

“That shows how close things are but it’s all right talking about if we win, we have to start winning.”

Having failed to win a single game during the club’s charity efforts for Movember, Mills also joked he will be pleased to his see players clean shaven for the first day of the new month.

He said: “I can’t wait to get rid of the moustaches. Maybe they are the real reason why we’ve had a bad November.”