LOUIS Almond is in line to return for York City at Spennymoor Town tomorrow night after missing the last two games with bruised ribs.

The 25-year-old attacker was sidelined with bruised ribs for the back-to-back 2-0 National League North defeats against FC United of Manchester and Chorley.

But his pain eased over the weekend and City chief Gary Mills is hoping he has Almond available again with the former Tranmere forward having claimed six assists already this term, including teeing up all the goals in last month’s 5-0 victory at Bradford Park Avenue.

“Louis has been feeling a bit more comfortable, so we’re hoping he might be fit,” Mills said. “It was working well with him, Amari (Morgan-Smith) and Ranks (Michael Rankine) up there, while Jon (Parkin) was injured and it would be nice to have him back.

“We’ve missed him creating opportunities. He’s had chances to score as well and we have to try and get back to the standards we set against Blyth, Bradford Park Avenue and in stages against Nuneaton.”

Rankine was pressed into an unfamiliar left-wing role at Chorley as Mills accommodated both the squad’s target men in a three-pronged strikeforce that saw Parkin fill the central position.

With Almond back, the Minstermen chief is set to make a choice between Parkin and Rankine if he sticks with 4-3-3 and, on his forward experiment at the weekend, Mills confessed: “You can never say you wouldn’t do it again, as you don’t know what might get forced upon you, but it didn’t really work on Saturday, although nothing did really.”

Simon Heslop will serve a one-match ban at The Brewery Field and, with Adriano Moke also absent due to a thigh injury, Mills is set to turn to untried summer recruit Theo Wharton for the first time, with the City chief challenging the 22-year-old midfielder to prove he is ready for senior duty.

“There’s no doubt we have missed Mokes since he went out of the side and Simon Heslop being suspended gives us a little bit of an issue in the middle of the park, so I’m hoping it might be time for Theo to step in,” Mills declared. “I’ve been looking for a bit more from him in training but, sometimes things are forced upon you and they work.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good lad who works hard – I just want him to show me what he is capable of and why I brought him here. He did well in two or three pre-season matches, but you can’t get carried away with that.

“I need a new hip in November and I could have done well at Oakham! It was just one of those types of games (City beat the United Counties League first division side 9-0).

“When you come to the real stuff, you look for real men who can do jobs for real.”

Mills has also suggested that the next three games, with home matches against Stockport and Gainsborough to follow the Spennymoor clash, will answer a lot of questions about his ninth-placed squad.

“Last week was a poor one for us and Chorley was probably the poorest performance during both of my spells here as manager, but I don’t want that to escalate into a real problem,” the City manager pointed out. “I’ve been in football a long time and you have poor weeks.

“You have to then dust yourself down and respond by having a good week and putting the last one behind you. We have a lot of experienced players who will have been through this kind of thing before and know how to react.

“We have three games in eight days now, so that’s nine points at stake. If we take all of them, that gap to the top teams will probably close, but that’s just me talking.

“We’ve got to go out and try to do that. We’ve played eight games and where we are in the league is not the end of the world.

“I would rather have a few more points, but the next three games will tell me a lot.”

Spennymoor lie fifth in the standings and Mills has also called upon his team to display the mental strength that seems ingrained in north-east outfits.

On the next opponents, he admitted: “They are doing well and that doesn’t surprise me. I know quite a lot of their team and they are good players with the right character.

“It’s a tight little ground and the north-east people are a different breed, which I’ve spoken about before. It’s not too long ago that they were two leagues below us, so they will be absolutely buzzing that they’re above us in the table and absolutely buzzing about trying to beat us at their own place.

“We have to deal with that. All the north-east clubs (Spennymoor, Darlington and Blyth) are above us in the table at the moment, so we’ve got to show what this football club is about too.”