NEW signing John McGrath is poised to go straight into York City’s starting line-up for tonight’s home match with League Two title contenders Gillingham.

Burton midfielder McGrath, who turns 33 next month, has signed on loan with the Minstermen until the end of the season.

But striker Jamie Reed will play no part in the rest of City’s campaign, having agreed loan terms with Blue Square Bet Premier outfit Cambridge United.

McGrath has scored 19 goals for Burton during 236 appearances but has found his first-team opportunities restricted this term after returning in November from nine months on the sidelines with a torn foot ligament.

He has made nine appearances, but only one start, since regaining fitness but has, otherwise, been a mainstay in the Brewers’ engine room for five-and-a-half years.

His last outing came during Saturday’s 2-0 home victory over Rotherham but City boss Gary Mills acted quickly when he learned that the former Aston Villa player had become available.

McGrath played for Tamworth under Mills, having started out at Villa, where he made two Premier League appearances at the age of 20 as a substitute for David Ginola and Paul Merson in respective matches against Liverpool and Bradford.

The Irishman has also plied his trade at Dagenham & Redbridge, Doncaster Rovers, Shrewsbury, Kidderminster Harriers, home-town Limerick and Weymouth in the past.

Former City boss Colin Walker, meanwhile, once tried to sign McGrath before he went on to help Burton win the Conference title in 2008/9, playing 48 games and scoring six goals during that campaign.

On McGrath’s arrival and Reed’s departure, City chief Mills said: “I’ve brought John McGrath in from Burton on loan until the end of the season.

“He’s an experienced League player and has skippered Burton at that level for a couple of seasons. He became available and I decided to go and get him.

“Jamie Reed has also gone to Cambridge until the end of the season. He wanted to leave and that situation has been going on for too long. It’s been rectified now and he won’t take any further part in our season.

City skipper Chris Smith, meanwhile, looks likely to miss this evening’s match with a foot problem.

As David McGurk (hamstring), Chris Doig (ankle) and Lanre Oyebanjo (head) are all currently sidelined, Smith’s absence could mean a rare chance for Dan Parslow in his once favoured position of centre-back.

Mills added: “Chris Smith is very doubtful with a foot injury and, while I’m not 100 per cent sure that he won’t be playing, I’m probably 75 per cent sure. David McGurk is still out as well so our obvious option is to put Dan Parslow back in there.

“That would not be an issue although things are not ideal for us because, at this moment in time, we’ve got Dave McGurk, Chris Doig, Lanre Oyebanjo and probably Chris Smith out injured now, which is a massive blow for us at the back.”

With his side having shipped four goals in each of their last two matches, Mills has also refused to rule out making several changes to his starting line-up.

He said: “You always have to look and see if you think it’s the right time to make changes.

“I have to think about what is the best team to beat Gillingham and, if that means changes, then there will be some because that’s my job.”

Prior to losing 4-0 at Wycombe and 4-1 against Morecambe, however, the Minstermen held Gillingham to a 1-1 draw at Priestfield and even led until the 85th minute so Mills knows his team are capable of bouncing back from their last two results.

“When we played them a couple of weeks ago, we were the better team,” he reasoned.

“We know how they play and will have to handle their direct approach to the game like we did at their place.

“I don’t need to remind the players how well they played against them last time out. We’ve just been going over a few things in training and the most important thing is that we get back to our best.”