CHRIS Porter has been told to prove he can hold on to his place in goal for York City until the end of the season.

The former Darlington goalkeeper was preferred between the sticks to Mark Ovendale for Saturday's home match with Torquay and handed his first game for City since signing in the summer.

Ovendale was at fault in the 3-1 midweek defeat against Scunthorpe but his omission from the side was still a surprise, having been an ever-present for City this season.

Player-boss Chris Brass was pleased with Porter's performance in the 0-0 draw against Torquay, however, and he will stay in possession of the keeper's jersey for this weekend's home match against Yeovil.

Brass said: "If you earn the right to keep your shirt I do not change things. You can't ask for more than a clean sheet from a goalkeeper and Chris also gave us a good voice and made one or two good blocks.

"He organised the lads in front of him and it certainly made a difference. We have been lacking a voice since I came out of the side but he's come in and given that.

"I felt a lot more comfortable on the sidelines and you have to give Chris credit for that. He came for one or two crosses with confidence and when you see your 'keeper do that you relax more and are less nervous. His chance has come and he deserves to keep his place.

"Let's see what he does between now and the end of the season. 'Keepers like clean sheets as much as strikers like goals and he's got one so he will be as high as a kite."

Brass also praised Chris Smith, who gave a strong performance after being dropped for the Scunthorpe match.

The player-boss said: "I was looking for a reaction from people like Chris Smith and I got a good, positive one. Richard Hope has not played for a few weeks and he's got 90 minutes as well. That shows a lot of character.

"I'm disappointed not to get a goal but it was 100 times better. If they keep performing like that I will struggle to get back in."

Smith, Hope and Porter were three of five new faces in Saturday's starting line-up with on-loan Newcastle striker Richard Offiong and non-contract signing Andy Bell also handed full City debuts.

Offiong was thrown straight into the team without a training session but lasted 66 minutes and Brass was pleased with his response, saying: "He's a positive player.

"He's been out with injury so he's not 100 per cent but he showed in the first 30 minutes what he's capable of doing.

"He excites me and gets spectators on the edge of their seats, which we need.

"You have to give him credit. The deal was finalised at one minute to five on Friday night and he came in not knowing any of the lads but gave a good performance.

"With a full week's training under his belt, he has the potential of coming here, doing well and going on to better things."

Fellow striker Bell almost scored for the second successive match, hitting the bar with a header, and Brass is also delighted with the former Wycombe forward's form.

He said: "It was a brave header that hit the crossbar and he was very unfortunate. He showed his work ethic and commitment.

"He's quality and hungry. You can see that.

"He wants an opportunity and he's certainly impressed us and, hopefully, if he continues to show the same form he's got a realistic chance."

Bell and Offiong played alongside assistant manager Lee Nogan in a 3-4-3 formation.

Lincoln City have been successful with a similar line-up and Brass added that he will employ the same tactics against Yeovil.

He said: "It's something I have wanted to toy with all season but it's been a case of getting the personnel in. We adopted it when Liam George was playing with Lee Nogan and Lee Bullock and now we have Richard and Andy in they give us a bit of pace and they work to close down the full backs."

Skipper Darren Edmondson missed Saturday's game with a recurrence of his calf injury and Leigh Wood deputised again at right wing-back.

Brass said: "Leigh tired towards the end but gave quite a solid performance. Again, it's a case of the shirt is yours, now keep it."

Updated: 11:24 Monday, March 15, 2004