YORK City boss Nigel Worthington has admitted that choosing between the returning Nick Pope and long-serving goalkeeper Michael Ingham will be a tough call when he names his team to face Bristol Rovers tomorrow.
Pope, 21, has come back to Bootham Crescent for a second loan spell from Charlton after his first was cut short just two games in by an injury to Ben Hamer at his parent club.
Former Northern Ireland international Ingham, who has never been dropped by the Minstermen either during a loan spell in 2003, or following his permanent move from Hereford five years later, was crocked as Pope played between the sticks against Southend and Morecambe in November.
But now Worthington is facing a straight choice between the pair.
Confessed the City manager: “It’s a very, very close contest and I will be taking the next 24 hours to mull everything over and make the right decision.
“Competition is always healthy and, if anybody drops their standards now, there is somebody of reasonable to very good ability, right through the squad, ready to step in and then it’s up to them.
“Nick did very well here before and left a very good impression on and off the pitch so I am very pleased to bring somebody with his quality and ability into the group to work alongside Michael.”
Pope’s arrival follows the signings of John McCombe, Russell Penn, Adam Reed and Shaq McDonald since the turn of the year.
Centre-back Keith Lowe’s loan move from Cheltenham has also been turned into a permanent switch during that time but Worthington revealed City could still make further additions before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.He said: “We are always looking around and the chairman is up for doing more business so, while he is, so am I. If there’s somebody out there who can make us better, then we will look to do something.”
Following three consecutive victories, meanwhile, the City chief has warned his players against complacency and challenged the 14th-placed team to target a top-half place in the Sky Bet League Two standings.
“We have got to stay focused,” Worthington pointed out.
“You cannot think you can put your feet up after three games because the game of football has a nasty habit of slapping you in the face.
“You have to keep turning the screw if you want to do anything in a positive manner.
“If you don’t keep winning, you stand still and we are looking to put distance between ourselves and the bottom part of the league while also trying to play catch up with the top half of the table.
“It’s our aim to be in that top half and I think that’s a realistic target because the performances over the season, aside from one or two blips, have been reasonably good.”
Tomorrow’s match will represent the fifth time Worthington has tackled former City manager John Ward’s Rovers side since taking charge at Bootham Crescent.
The Minstermen have not won any of those encounters, which have resulted in two draws and a pair of defeats with Worthington expecting better standards than his side mustered in the last meeting – the 3-2 home defeat in a first round FA Cup replay.
City trailed by three goals after 50 minutes on that night and Worthington said: “Three of the games we have had have been close but, in the replay, we embarrassed ourselves for an hour perhaps more than Bristol Rovers embarrassed us, so I think we owe ourselves to put in a good performance rather than owing them one.
“For the last 30 minutes in the cup game, we were the York City that has got some good results and we have got to start like that tomorrow.”
Sander Puri is out of the Pirates’ visit with a minor knee ligament complaint but City have no other injury concerns other than long-term casualty Dan Parslow.