YORK City’s new manager Steve Watson is unlikely to field a back three for his first senior game in charge at in-form Stockport on Saturday.

The former Everton and Newcastle defender experimented with a defensive trio in the second half of Tuesday night’s 6-1 North Riding Senior Cup victory over Redcar Athletic when he selected a fully-professional squad.

Watson used that system in his previous job at Gateshead but, on the evidence of the quarter-final tie, feels it might be a system that needs time to bed in at his new club.

“We had a look at three centre-backs to see if it’s something we could go with in terms of the personnel we have got, but it didn’t look like we were particularly ready for that,” Watson confessed. “We’ll maybe look at it again if recruitment goes our way as the season goes on.”

Watson did, nevertheless, regard the midweek contest as a valuable first exercise in evaluating the players now under his charge, pointing out: “It was a really important game, because I learned a lot more than I would have done from a training session about what we need to work on and the cultural changes we need in terms of tempo and intensity, even though they won’t happen overnight because we have come here in mid-season rather than at the start of pre-season.”

Alex Kempster, meanwhile, could have forced himself into the reckoning for a first start since August.

The 23-year-old attacker kicked off the first four games of the season under Martin Gray, before managing just one substitute outing during Sam Collins’ four-and-a-half month reign and being sent out on loan to Spennymoor.

Watson played the ex-Whitley Bay campaigner in an advanced central-midfield role during the first half against Redcar and, then, at left-wing back for the second period and, having played every numbered shirt from two to 11 for Newcastle, the new City boss stressed that Kempster is firmly back in the frame under his stewardship.

“When you haven’t got a massive squad, you recruit along the lines of finding players who aren’t just one-trick ponies and can be used in different positions,” Watson reasoned. “We did that at Gateshead and had people like Robbie Tinkler who played three or four positions and was important to us.

“It’s good that Kemps can do that and I thought he did pretty well against Redcar. I actually watched him at Whitley Bay and was interested in taking him to Gateshead, but he then went to Port Vale on trial and ended up signing for York.

“He’s got good energy and was one of a couple of players on Tuesday who kept trying to be positive and break lines to get in the box. We can’t go to Stockport and expect to just soak up pressure for 90 minutes.

“We’ve got to test them the other way with people who will go beyond, so Kemps did himself no harm against Redcar in that respect. Griff (Kallum Griffiths) also did very well at right back.”

Stockport, along with City, are the two National League North clubs Watson regards as having Football League potential despite their current positions two rungs down the ladder.

The third-placed Hatters obviously appear to be in a better position to support that assertion currently, but the City chief has challenged the 11 players he selects at Edgeley Park to keep their shirts by upsetting the bookmakers’ odds.

“I watched Stockport beat Truro 5-0 last weekend and Truro didn’t really ask them any questions,” Watson explained. “I’m sure we will ask them a few more, because we have better quality than Truro, but we need to get some belief back and become a team that people don’t want to play against.

“The pressure is off a little bit, because Stockport have been flying and scoring plenty of goals. People will expect them to be favourites because they are the league’s form team at the moment, but this is a new start and, hopefully, the players will be looking to impress and there might be some who are involved that haven’t been recently, because I’ll be picking a team from what I’ve seen and one that suits the shape.

“Whichever 11 players I pick, the ball will be in their court because they have a chance of keeping the shirts if they do what we ask of them.”

Watson added that he expects as tough a test at Stockport as he received against the majority of sides as manager of Gateshead one division higher.

“The good teams in this league could certainly hold their own in the league above and the same applies for the top sides in the National League in terms of League Two,” he argued. “I don’t think there’s a massive difference between the three leagues, but it gets tougher after that.”