YORK City goalkeeper Russell Howarth has returned to Bootham Crescent after a brief trial with First Division Wolves.

It has also emerged City's hopes of keeping hold of star striker Michael Proctor, at least until the end of the season, have received a timely boost.

Howarth, who also had a trial with Premiership Sunderland last year, played for Wolves' reserves in their 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town in midweek.

The 19-year-old reportedly impressed Molineux boss Dave Jones, who has vowed to "monitor the situation".

Howarth even had a decisive hand in the win for Wolves reserves, Belgian striker Cedric Roussel latching on to his long clearance to fire home.

Jones is known to be on the lookout for a goalkeeper to act as cover for current number one Michael Oakes, but has not yet followed up his interest in Howarth with City boss Terry Dolan.

Oakes has been a regular in Jones' promotion-chasing line-up all season but should he get hurt the club has no experience to come in between the sticks.

With former City goalkeeper Bobby Mimms the shot-stopper coach at Molineux, teenager Matt Murray is currently the only other 'keeper on the club's books and Jones has been in Holland and Belgium running the rule over a possible new man.

Howarth, who trained at Molineux yesterday and also figured in a behind closed doors game for Wanderers last week, is thought to be more of a long-term target for Wolves and a deal is not believed to be imminent.

However, the Riccall-based youngster is out of contract at City at the end of the season and has seen his first-team opportunities severely limited at Bootham Crescent due to the form of Alan Fettis.

His ability is without question however having been capped by England at under-16, under-18, under-19 and under-20 level.

Despite the fact he will be out of contract at the end of the current campaign, City can still expect to bank a sizeable sum from any possible move.

Because Howarth is under 24, any interested takers would have to pay City 'compensation' for all the years spent nurturing the teenager, who has come up through the ranks at Bootham Crescent, into one of the country's best young goalkeepers.

Darlington's bid to wrestle City's nine-goal top scorer Proctor away from Bootham Crescent have been blighted by the player's agent.

The Black Cats youngster is currently on loan with the Minstermen but the Quakers were hoping to snap up the striker on a permanent deal to boost their goal-shy attack.

But it has emerged Proctor's agent has advised his client to remain with the Premiership side until his contract expires in the summer and then test the waters of the free-agent market.

"Mick Tait (Darlington's assistant-manager) spoke to his agent and he said he wants the lad to wait until the end of the season before deciding want he wants to do," said Quakers boss Tommy Taylor.

"The agent says he's just keeping his options open, but it has to go to a tribunal then anyway.

"I don't know what the player wants to do. I want to be able to speak to the player.

"Peter Reid has said it's okay to speak to him, it's just his agent that's holding things up."

Updated: 11:47 Friday, February 01, 2002