YORK City first-year scholar Ben Hirst could be called up for senior duty again if manager Russ Wilcox cannot bring in a striker before tomorrow’s deadline for loan signings.

Teenage striker Hirst, who signed professional terms after making a series of substitute outings under Wilcox’s predecessor Nigel Worthington earlier in the campaign, has not featured for the first team since a 25-minute run-out during the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Barnsley in September.

The 17-year-old forward has also only made the bench once during the last 21 matches but, with Wes Fletcher (hamstring) and Emile Sinclair (thigh) both doubtful for the rest of the campaign and Michael Coulson still struggling with a stomach problem, Hirst could have a role to play as City’s fight for Football League survival enters its final five weeks.

On his continued search for a new forward, Wilcox said: “I thought I was close to getting someone in but he has gone somewhere else.

“We need somebody in because, with Emile being injured, we’re short on bodies. But, whilst I could bring a young under-21 player in who has no experience, it’s important to get the right player in.

“I want to make sure we’ve got all bases covered by getting somebody if we can. I’m not going to panic though and we won’t bring somebody in if they’re not going to add to the group.

“We’ve also got Ben Hirst who we can turn to if needed because he’s tasted first-team football before earlier in the season.”

With four players already signed on loan in Bobby Olejnik, Brad Halliday, Shaq Coulthirst and Stephane Zubar, Wilcox is unlikely to make more than one addition to the Bootham Crescent ranks tomorrow.

A maximum of five loan players can be selected in any match-day squad and, with Luke Summerfield having returned from injury and Tom Platt performing strongly during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Accrington, Wilcox admitted that he is now less concerned about the team’s options in the middle of the park.

The City boss added: “We looked in the midfield area before but, fingers crossed, Luke Summerfield is back in there now and Tom Platt showed what he can add to the group as well with his performance at the weekend.”

City travel to a Mansfield team that lie just seven points and four places above them on Saturday and Wilcox has spoken of the importance of clawing back some ground on the Stags.

On his team’s next test, the Minstermen chief said: “If we don’t do the basics right and compete in both boxes, we will have issues but, if we are brave on the ball, we know we have players with the quality to hurt teams, as we showed at Accrington. Mansfield’s new manager (Adam Murray) has changed things a little bit and their home record has been excellent.

“They have won four, drawn two and lost one of their last seven and the only defeat came against Bury, who are one of the top teams. But everybody here is in a positive frame of mind.

“We know we are in a dogfight with five or six teams but, hopefully, after this weekend, there will be one or two more in it. If we beat Mansfield, they will be dragged into it and Cambridge are on a slippery slope too.”

Wilcox has also spoken of the need to defend free kicks better after Accrington’s 90th-minute equaliser in his team’s last outing.

“I was disappointed with our organisation and set-up for the free kick because we work on that,” he explained. “The wall has to stay strong and, if it had, we would have probably won the game.”