Rory McArdle will reach a remarkable endurance milestone for City against Accrington this afternoon as the busiest player in English football.

The ultra-consistent defender has arguably spent more time on the pitch than anyone throughout the domestic game this season.

When today’s Valley Parade clash reaches the 58th minute, McArdle will have played 48 hours of football – or two full days on the pitch.

Back-four team-mate James Meredith is only 44 minutes behind as City continue their hectic progress through a memorable campaign.

Saturday’s postponement at Wycombe offered an unexpected breather but McArdle is ready for the next rush.

The Northern Ireland international, in line for his 30th start, is happy to keep the games coming.

McArdle said: “Everyone knows the Christmas period is busy. We looked at it a few weeks ago and worked out it was going to be a big month.

“We also thought January would be calming down a bit but fortunately we’ve managed to get a bit of a scalp by beating Arsenal and now we’ve got another two games in the Capital One Cup as well as the JP Trophy.

“So we’re playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday again – but that’s not a bad thing. We know we’ve got a good squad and the injured boys are pretty much there.”

Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid both returned from their lay-offs last week and Andrew Davies is getting nearer after being sidelined for two months with his knee injury.

McArdle said: “Only big Luke (Oliver) is not going to feature. Dava is a month or two away and he’s in good spirits and getting stronger every day.

“And of course we’ve got Zav and Reidy available again. It does give us a lift to see more players coming back.

“It keeps everyone on their toes too because people know that if they aren’t performing there are boys waiting to come in and take their places.

“But it’s also not easy for those coming back. The boys have dug in and got results since they’ve been out.

“It was a massive test for us, particularly with the players we’ve lost. You look back to the start of the season and people like big Olly, Dava and Reidy were the heart of the team.

“I think the boys have more than handled it. Ideally we’d like to be sitting a bit higher in the league but it’s only December.

“If we’re still up there come the end of next month, we should have everyone back fit and firing.”

Phil Parkinson has banned any mention of the forthcoming double-header with Aston Villa but City’s incredible cup success has given them a reputation with the rest of League Two.

McArdle said: “We’ve become a bit of a scalp now and that increases the expectation. But we’ve got no problem with that.

“We put pressure on ourselves from the start of the season to get promoted and that hasn’t changed.

“We can just enjoy the cup; that’s the bonus for us. It’s been good for the fans, especially with the draws we’ve had, but promotion is the key.

“This is a big period for us and we’re expected to win in the league. But we can handle that.”