TEENAGE defender Tom Allan will be ready to face League Two leaders Gillingham on Saturday if needed, according to York City manager Gary Mills.
Allan, 18, was given his City debut as a 57th-minute substitute during Saturday’s thumping home victory over Bristol Rovers.
He replaced fellow centre-back Chris Doig and helped ensure the Minstermen defended their 4-1 advantage until the final whistle.
Doig was withdrawn due to an ankle problem and, should he still be struggling for the weekend, Mills insists he would have no hesitation in handing Allan his first senior start against Martin Allen's high-flying Gills.
The York-born defender was preferred to experienced campaigner David McGurk when Doig signalled to the bench and Mills, given his debut at the age of 16 by legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, will not let age influence his selection decisions.
He said: “Chris Doig was feeling his ankle a bit so we decided to put Tom on at 4-1 because I know he will just get on with the job. He’s a good defender who can pass the ball and head it.
“He’s never nervous whatsoever, is always listening and learning and I would be happy if we needed to play him against Gillingham.
“It would not faze me and, more to the point, it would not faze him.
“There’s only one way that these players will get better and become really good players and that’s by giving them their opportunity.
“I can just about remember when I made my debut and I played for a manager who believed that if a player was good enough he was old enough.
“Sometimes, young players can make mistakes but they have to learn from them to grow into stronger and better players.”
Mills believes Allan is not the only home-grown talent capable of making the professional grade with fellow second-year scholars Reece Kelly and Rob Moncur having both been issued with senior squad numbers too.
First-year professional Tom Platt also scored his eighth goal in 12 appearances at the weekend during a loan spell with Harrogate Town.
The City boss added: “As well as Tom Allan, we’ve got a couple of others who are coming through and training with the first team and I’m also delighted with how well Tom Platt is doing.”
Mills was equally pleased with Ashley Chambers’ display against Rovers and wants the former Leicester forward to be credited with a hat-trick after City’s opening goal was awarded to visiting defender Garry Kenneth on the day.
The decision looked the correct call after a review of the match DVD but the Minstermen chief was, nevertheless, pleased with the forward’s contribution as he joined Kenneth and Jason Walker on the scoresheet by bagging a brace to end a nine-game run without a League goal.
Mills added he now requires greater consistency from this season’s eight-goal leading marksman, saying: “I’m not sure if it was a hat-trick but it was a great ball in and, when you put quality in like that, it’s always hard to defend.
“Hopefully, he will be given the hat-trick because I thought he was superb. It was him at his best.
“He was on his front foot and wanted to hurt defenders and score goals. When he plays like that, he’s almost unstoppable.
“He’s just got to be more consistent and in that mood a bit more because everybody saw (on Saturday) what a good player he is. He came off because his groin was a bit sore.”
The City boss went on to suggest the result and display will provide his players with an injection of confidence when the table-toppers come to town.
“We addressed the importance of getting on our front foot during the week before the match and, right from the word go, we got in areas where we can kill teams off and it worked superbly for us,” Mills pointed out.
“I was disappointed to concede straight after we scored but we bounced back with some excellent goals.
“Going into a match with the League leaders, it’s a big boost for us and we showed what we are about. We’re doing okay – we’ve got 30 points and aren’t a million miles away from the play-offs.”
Paddy McLaughlin should be fit for Saturday’s game despite being stretchered off with an oxygen mask strapped to his face following a meaty midfield challenge on the stroke of half-time.
City manager Mills joked: “We told him he needed to win more second balls and he’s made a good challenge but ended up a bit dazed. He’s all right though.”
McLaughlin’s withdrawal gave Jonathan Smith a chance to illustrate his worth on his return from a loan spell at non-League Luton Town and, on his performance as well as the decision to keep faith with the same side that lost 2-0 at Plymouth seven days earlier, Mills added: “I decided not to start Jonathan and go with Paddy instead.
“It was the same team as the previous match to see if that was a one-off because I believed in that side and still do. When Jonathan came on, he won us some second balls but some passes went a bit astray, which isn’t his strength and its something he has to improve on because we like to keep the ball and play it simple.”
Mills also praised the club’s home supporters with gates at Bootham Crescent for League matches yet to dip under 3,000 despite Saturday’s win representing only a third triumph in 14 North Yorkshire fixtures.
Also taking into consideration fans’ financial pressures during the run-up to Christmas, Mills said: “I’m glad we repaid the fans with a win.
“We’ve had a tough time at home this season at times and things haven’t gone how we’ve wanted but we’ve stuck in there and the fans have as well.
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding and, now, I hope we can get a few more home victories for them.”