York City player-boss Chris Brass was keeping coy as he prepared for his managerial baptism at Carlisle United.

The City supremo reckons to have selected his first squad for Saturday's opening day clash at Brunton Park but was giving little away as to his starting line-up.

Brass, showing all the hallmarks of an experienced manager, is anxious not to give his opponents an advantage.

"We know the XI and we have been working on it but, like any team, we will be keeping our cards close to our chest. Everyone will know come 3pm on Saturday," said the City chief.

Brass has wrapped up a deal with Harrogate Town for wing-back Dave Merris, who has now signed on the dotted line.

City are waiting on clearance from the FA to see if Merris is available tomorrow.

If City get the green light then the former Rotherham United full-back could make his City debut against Cumbrians. If not, utility player Steve Downes could fulfil the left-wing back role if, as expected, City start with a 5-3-2 formation.

Brass said: "We are delighted Dave has been able to join us. He is another one who is a welcome addition to the squad."

Skipper Darren Edmondson seems certain to take up his usual position at right wing-back with Brass sweeping up behind centre-backs Chris Smith and, with Scott Jones still working towards full match fitness, new signing Richard Hope, who put pen to paper on a one month contract yesterday.

Brass is spoilt for choice in midfield although Lee Bullock, Darren Dunning and Mitch Ward are probably favourites to be installed in the City engine room ahead of Christian Fox, Leigh Wood and Richard Cooper with Stephen Brackstone also striving for match-fitness.

Up front, City will select two from player-coach Lee Nogan, Liam George, Aron Wilford and remain hopeful Jon Parkin could be included in the squad, although injury more than suspension could force his withdrawal.

The Football Association have still to confirm the striker is suspended for tomorrow's game following his dismissal against Livingston.

City are proceeding on the basis that the 21-year-old is clear to play until they hear otherwise, but Parkin has picked up a strain in training which could, in any case, rule him out.

After weeks grafting and recruiting, Brass admitted he was delighted to have the big kick-off so close.

"It's what you work towards all pre-season and we just want to get this game out of the way and see what the rest of the season brings.

"We are very well prepared and have been from day one.

"The boys are fit and know exactly how to apply themselves and we know Carlisle in fine detail, but we can't worry too much about the opposition.

"If we play the football we are capable of I am sure we can get the right result."

York City: Ovendale, Edmondson, Smith, Brass, Hope, Downes, Bullock, Dunning, Ward, George, Nogan. Subs (from): Porter, Cooper, Wood, Wise, Wilford, Fox

Carlisle (possible): Glennon, Birch, Kelly, Raven, Murphy, Foran, Simpson, Billy, Rundle, Livingston, Farrell. Subs (from): Keen, Russell, Shelley, Wake, Baldacchino, Maddison, Andrews, McDonagh

Referee: Alan Butler (Nottinghamshire)

Updated: 11:17 Friday, August 08, 2003