RELIEF but no release is the York City maxim as the Minstermen go in search of a double first at Rushden & Diamonds tomorrow.

With the dark clouds of uncertainty showing signs of lifting over Bootham Crescent, defender Chris Smith admits City must let not the prospect of brighter times off the pitch relax their grip on the promotion throttle.

"Going into the last few games its been difficult to know whether they were going to be the club's last or not," Smith told the Evening Press.

"We've managed to put the worries to the back of our minds come Saturday and we've all stuck together and done well.

"It's a big relief to know things are looking better and hopefully we can carry on as we have been doing, and may be it might even improve us.

"But we certainly don't want to get sloppy and we need to go out and show the same attitude of the last few weeks."

Smith admitted the importance of tomorrow's game could not be underestimated as the Minstermen look to secure their first ever League win - and score their first goal - against Brian Talbot's side and maintain their play-off push.

And with just six-points separating City from second-placed Diamonds, Smith admits victory at Nene Park would serve to underline City's automatic promotion credentials.

"We've hopefully had our little bad patch a few weeks ago and we can keep this unbeaten run going now," reasoned the 21-year-old.

"Automatic promotion is still not out of the question yet. Teams like Rushden have been dragged back down and the top eight or nine clubs all seem to be winning and closing the gap.

"We've got 13 games left and if we can keep this run going we will certainly be up there at the end."

Smith has an added incentive for wanting to do well against Rushden. The young defender was red-carded in the corresponding fixture last season as the Minstermen crashed to a 3-0 defeat.

"I'd like to put that right and I certainly won't be doing that again," admitted the former Reading centre-back.

"They are a good side with a good stadium and a good set of fans so it won't be easy.

"But Rushden have had a bad few results recently and hopefully we can get another result and if we beat them tomorrow we will be only three points behind."

Having had to endure a short-spell on the sidelines until his return to the starting line-up five games ago, Smith, arguably one of City's most consistent performers of the season, admitted it was proving good to talk.

"I've come back into the side and basically the communication has been tremendous - I've got Darren Edmondson on one side of me and Chris Brass on the other and they never stop talking," he enthused.

"We've kept things tight in defence but the midfield and forwards have been working really hard too."

"We've kept things tight in defence but the midfield and forwards have been working really hard too."

Lee Bullock returns tomorrow after serving his one-match ban.

Tomorrow's squads:

York City

(from): Ingham, Edmondson, Smith, Brass, Jones, Cowan, Potter, Bullock, Cooper, Nogan, Shandran, Parkin, Collinson, Mathie, Wood, Wise.


(probable): Turley, Bignott, Dempster, Hunter, Underwood, Hall, Burgess, Wardley, Bell, Darby, Lowe. Subs, from: Peters, Battersby, Sambrook, Duffy, Mills, Setchell.

Referee: David Crick (Surrey)

Kick off: 3pm

Fact file:

On their first visit to Nene Park last season City went down 3-0. This game was staged on January 19, 2002 and the line-up was: Fettis, Edmondson, Smith, Basham, Hobson, Potter, Cooper, Richardson (Mathie), Bullock, Nogan (Duffield), Proctor.

The defeat left City near the bottom of Division Three with only goal difference separating them from Halifax Town. City's record was: P25 W6 D6 L13 F28 A45 Pts24.

City have still to score a goal against Rushden in League football.

Last season they conceded a double against the League newcomers losing at home 1-0. Earlier this campaign the clubs drew 0-0 at Bootham Crescent.

A playing link between the clubs is provided by Ray Warburton, who earlier this season announced his retirement as a player with Boston United because of injury.

Updated: 11:41 Friday, February 28, 2003