JONATHAN Smith and Scott Kerr are being challenged to become the midfield “driving forces” they have been in the past for York City.
The pair are poised to start alongside each other for the first time since Smith’s return to Bootham Crescent this summer.
They have only shared a pitch in City colours this season for 12 brief minutes, spread over three games, in between Kerr’s comeback from cruciate knee ligament damage and Smith’s one-month loan transfer to Luton Town.
Smith, who rejoined City after winning a League Two championship-winners medal with Swindon last season, now looks set to renew a partnership with Kerr that saw City win eight and lose only one of their ten home games when both were in the same starting line-up during the second half of the 2010/11 season.
In contrast, prior to entertaining struggling Bristol Rovers tomorrow, the Minstermen have won only two of their last 13 Bootham Crescent fixtures.
On the possibility of pitching Smith and Kerr together for the first time since April 2011, during a 1-0 home win over Luton when the latter was actually sent off midway through the second half, Mills said: “They can both be driving forces in the middle of the park. There was a time when they hit it off and playing them together worked very, very well.
“It might just be time to put them back in there together so they can complement each other again because that’s what we all need.”
Mills chose to recall Smith from Kenilworth Road instead of bringing back Lee Bullock, who remains at Gateshead.
On that decision, the Minstermen boss explained: “I’m quite happy for Bully to stay at Gateshead. He’s a different type of player to Jonathan Smith.
“We need somebody who gets on the front foot and makes things happen, which Jonathan does when he’s at his best.”
Lanre Oyebanjo remains a doubt for the Rovers clash, having struggled to train this week following the hamstring tweak that caused him to miss last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Plymouth and utility man Jon Challinor could also miss out with a minor knee problem.
Mills, meanwhile, has urged his team to discover a level of consistency in their play after retaining the same starting line-up that impressively beat Rochdale for the disappointing Plymouth match.
He said: “We’ve been hit and miss a little bit over the last few weeks. We’ve played very well in patches and very poorly in other patches.
“Maybe that was always going to be the case, as much as it frustrates me, because this season’s a learning process for a lot of our players, but we need to be more consistent individually and as a team.
“I thought we were excellent at Rochdale and then we were the complete opposite at Plymouth.
“Good players and teams are consistent so Plymouth has got to be a one-off because we can’t expect to put in performances like that and do well this season.”
Mills has also called on his players and supporters to be patient tomorrow against second-bottom Rovers and demanded more endeavour from his team than was in evidence at Home Park.
“We’ve got to play our game and not panic if we haven’t scored in the first 30 or 60 minutes,” the City chief reasoned. “We’ve got to keep our shape and discipline because it’s a tough, tough league.
“Plymouth showed how much they wanted three points last week and I don’t think Bristol Rovers will be any different.
“They will work hard and we’ve got to match or better that because, sometimes, hard work on its own can get you a result.
“If we then pass it how we can, we are a tough team to beat. There’s no excuses, though, for not working hard and my players will have learned that from last weekend.”