YORK City boss Martin Gray believes the Bootham Crescent faithful could prove the difference against title-chasing neighbours Harrogate Town.

The Wetherby Road outfit will be making the 45-minute journey across the A59 for a league fixture for the first-ever time on Saturday.

Simon Weaver’s men will also go into the North Yorkshire derby just three points behind National League North table-toppers Salford, who are at home to second-bottom Gainsborough.

City chief Martin Gray, meanwhile, is preparing his team for the fixture amid the continued uncertainty following Jason McGill’s decision to step down as chairman and put the club up for sale.

For 90 minutes, though, Gray wants the club’s “fantastic fans” to focus all their vocal efforts on helping the players secure maximum points to boost his team’s quest to secure a play-off spot.

“It’s all about the crowd this weekend,” Gray insisted. “I’m sure Harrogate will be well-supported but, with the crowds we get from people in the city and all over the place, we need to make sure that our fantastic fans concentrate on the football and we give them something back in return.”

On-loan midfielder Alex Pattison is expected to start the game, having limped out of the action early on in Saturday’s 1-1 draw to Chorley.

He would have missed Easter Monday’s postponed trip to FC United of Manchester but, having received treatment on his ankle injury at parent club Middlesbrough, Pattison is back in training.

Simon Heslop is also available again with his two-match suspension having kept him sidelined for more than three weeks due to City’s recent weather-affected programme and the Nuneaton match being rearranged due to international call-ups.

But Jon Parkin (knee), Louis Almond (hamstring) and Alex Kempster (hamstring) will not feature in a game that Gray has billed “the biggest” for his team.

“It’s the biggest game and I’m looking forward to it so much,” Gray enthused. “We’ve got to respect Harrogate, because they have been in the top three all season and Simon Weaver has done a great job as manager.

“They have adapted well to going full-time and adapted well to their 3G pitch, but this game is at our place and it’s a derby game where form goes out of the window. It will be a battle and a scrap and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for that.

“I saw them lose to Spennymoor last week and beat Blyth 5-1 on Monday. Simon was also here to see our draw with Chorley, so both teams know the other’s strengths and weaknesses and we’ve got to stay disciplined by making sure 11 players stay on the pitch.”

With the FC United game being rained off, Gray’s men now only have one free midweek until the end of the regular season at Brackley on April 28.

That space will come during the run-up to that final contest in Northamptonshire.

Seventh-placed Spennymoor still have ten games to play, however, including five home fixtures in the space of ten days and three Thursday-night matches, starting this evening at Telford.

On his own team’s schedule, Gray said: “It was so disappointing to have a game called off at this stage of the season. We’d taken four points from six at home and we trained and prepared well on Sunday with the mindset of getting another three at FC United.

“But we trained instead on Monday as normal and, while the games will come thick and fast now, there are some teams in a worse position than us.”

Having given 17-year-old forward Flynn McNaughton his senior debut against Chorley, Gray has not ruled out turning to other youth-team hopefuls before the end of the campaign.

Harry Thompson, Josh Rogerson, Aaron Haswell and Ryan Whitley have all been reserve regulars in recent times and Gray added: “We’re working very closely with our small group of second-year scholars and they’re all in the squad at the moment because we like them and we need to have a good look as we decide on their futures.

“We’ve tried to introduce them as much as we can into first-team training so, if they are then needed, the transition should be easier, otherwise it can be quite intimidating as a young player when you’re thrown into that environment of big personalities. I’ve always spoken to (youth-team manager) Steve Torpey every Monday to ask which players have done well at the weekend, then included two or three in training sessions.

“They are all fresh, young and eager to impress, which helps keep training lively and improves the competition for places.”