OUT-OF-FAVOUR midfielder Theo Wharton has not given up on a first-team recall, despite not featuring in a York City matchday squad for four months.

The 23-year-old Welshman started Gary Mills’ final six matches as manager, but has only featured twice as a substitute under his successor Martin Gray and last made the bench for the 3-2 triumph at Alfreton back on November 11.

He also spent a month on loan at National League North rivals Tamworth either side of New Year, but has insisted he does not want to play for anybody else between now and the end of the campaign.

Instead, he wants to focus on persuading Gray he is worthy of a shirt.

“I’m just trying to work hard,” Wharton said. “I think the gaffer likes me, but the team are doing well in the league, despite a couple of bad results.

“We’ve also got some good players and everybody is competing for places. I’m desperate to play for the first team and feel I am good enough, but I’ve got to wait for my chance and hopefully it will come soon.

“It was good to get some minutes at Tamworth. I played four or five games and got my fitness up, which the reserve games help with too.

“There haven’t been any other opportunities to go elsewhere that I know of, but I want to play here and think I can do. I’m signed for York, so I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Wharton completed 90 minutes for the reserves in Tuesday night’s 3-3 North Riding Senior Cup semi-final draw against Middlesbrough Under-23s, which the Championship outfit went on to win 3-0 on penalties.

There are also five more second-string fixtures to play and Wharton admitted such games represent his best chance of catching Gray’s eye, adding: “Every game is an opportunity to play well – no matter who it is against.

“It’s always a chance to improve yourself and show people what you can do. Every time I play, I just want to do the best I can.

“We lost the game against Middlesbrough, but were the better team and, from a performance point of view, I felt all the boys could be happy with how we played. I thought everybody did well, from the young lads to the senior players.”

When it came to spot kicks, though, the team were found wanting with Raul Correia, Josh Law and Aaron Haswell all seeing their efforts saved.

With a possible three play-off ties on the horizon, shoot-out nerve might prove crucial in the National League North’s final analysis, with Wharton saying: “I didn’t think we’d need penalties (against Boro).

“There was only 30 seconds of normal time left to play, but maybe we need to work on a few. I was coming up fourth or fifth.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t get around to me, but I still fancied the players who stepped up to score and the keeper made some good saves.”

Despite City trailing table-topping Salford by some 18 points, Wharton also reckons the Bootham Crescent outfit will be ready to demonstrate their full potential when it matters most - at the start of May.

“I played a few games on loan at Tamworth and I know we have one of the best teams in the league here,” he said. “We’ve just got to pick up a few results and get in the play-offs. Then, I think we’ll be fine.”

Wharton, meanwhile, will not be in contention for the March 24 trip to Nuneaton, having earned his latest call-up to the Saint Kitts & Nevis national team for a friendly against the Dominican Republic the following day.

For the ex-Wales under-21 international, who has switched allegiance, it will be a chance to win a fifth full cap, along with sharing a pitch with team-mates like Brentford midfielder Romaine Sawyers.

On making the squad, Wharton said: “It’s always a great honour. My grandparents are from there, so it means a lot to me to go away and represent the country.

“I’m looking forward to it and it’s always a good experience. You learn a lot from certain players.

“Romaine is a top player at Championship level and there are a few players from Salford, so it’s good to have that mix. You see different things you can add to your game and it’s a bit different when you go abroad."

The friendly is also being used to determine the squad for the CONCACAF Nations League, which will start later this year and could give Wharton the chance to compete against the region’s strongest sides.

“We could come up against USA or Mexico,” he explained. “The new competition gives the smaller nations the chance to play against a bigger country, which would be something to look forward to.”