DAVID McGurk is poised for a return to York City’s defence at Luton Town tonight and manager Gary Mills has no concerns about him facing the team desperate to secure his signature.

The Hatters have made repeated bids for the 28-year-old centre-back’s services and McGurk even handed in a written transfer request back in November, while signalling his desire to join the Bedfordshire club.

But Mills refused to grant permission for the former Darlington defender to speak to Luton, whose latest approach came during this month’s transfer window.

McGurk missed Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Histon due to illness but, having trained yesterday, is set to reclaim his starting place at Kenilworth Road at the expense of Greg Young.

And City manager Mills insisted the persistent transfer speculation would not affect the current Press Player of the Year leader.

Mills said: “I’m not concerned about that at all and it hasn’t even entered my mind.”

While McGurk is available again, midfielder Neil Barrett is still sidelined with a knee problem that has caused him to miss the last two matches.

Should the City boss opt for his preferred 4-3-3 formation, he also admitted that he might again need to choose between ten-goal top scorer Michael Rankine and an in-form Leon Constantine, who has netted in the last three matches.

Constantine got the nod at Histon on Saturday but Rankine made a big impression coming off the bench when his side were trailing.

The City boss added that the only way both players would be likely to feature in the same starting line up would be if he switched to 4-4-2, as he did for the second half at the weekend.

Mills said: “Of course, Michael Rankine comes into contention as does everybody. That’s the beauty of having a good squad.

“Everybody has the chance of starting a game but I have to decide who will and I thought Ranks came on and changed the game for us with his strength at Histon.

“I don’t think Ranks and Leon can really play together in the 4-3-3 system because we have enough wide men who can play in that formation for me.

“Leon did play out wide for me a couple of months ago but he likes to play down the middle as does Ranks and it’s another good option for me to play them together.”

The City chief is also hoping the growing rivalry between his club and Luton can become a healthy one, rather than volatile.

Following the Minstermen’s play-off victory at Kenilworth Road last season and the subsequent crowd trouble, relations between the two clubs have become further strained by the Hatters’ pursuit of top City performers Alex Lawless and McGurk and the fall-out over ticket arrangements for this evening’s game following its abandonment last month.

The Conference board have adjudicated that Luton season-ticket holders must pay for admission into tonight’s game and that gate receipts will be split 50-50 between the two clubs with Mills adding: “Things have happened but we have to remain professional and get on with the job ahead.

“People make decisions and you have to abide by them. All I am worrying about is preparing a team to win at Luton.

“If there’s a good atmosphere then that will be fantastic. I just hope everybody is sensible.”

With the Hatters yet to have beaten City in five attempts, including last month’s match – snowed off after 56 minutes – Mills also believes that record might be beginning to have a psychological impact.

“It’s good to hear that record against Luton because, in football, there are teams that, for whatever reason, you can have trouble beating,” he said.

“It can become a mental thing.

“We won’t be hiding from the fact though that they are a strong side who are third in the table.”

Mills, meanwhile, added he had not yet decided whether to recall striker George Purcell at the end of his second month on loan with Dartford.

The ex-Ebbsfleet forward, who scored the only goal in the Darts’ FA Trophy win at Ashford on Saturday, is with Dartford another week before his current spell expires.

Mills said: “We will see what’s happening when his loan’s up but I’m pleased he’s getting games.”

• City’s home match with Mansfield, scheduled for Saturday, February 5, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 15, due to the Stags’ continued involvement in the FA Trophy.