OLIVER McBurnie has been urged to "step up to the plate" and justify City's decision not to replace James Hanson.

Phil Parkinson will keep faith with the teenager against Port Vale tomorrow as cover for the injured Hanson.

McBurnie made his fourth senior start in the Capital One Cup loss at MK Dons but struggled to make an impact.

Hanson is making progress from a torn thigh muscle but still faces up to three more weeks out of action.

For now, Parkinson has ruled out making a loan signing to fill in. Instead, he believes it is time that McBurnie did more to stake his claim to be understudy.

Parkinson said: "We are going with what we've got at the weekend. We've got players coming back.

"There's no point in bringing in some untried youngster (for Hanson) when we've got our own young striker.

"We are constantly assessing the situation and finances come into it as well.

"If the right player comes available, then we will make a case to the board to bring them in.

"But we are giving Olly the opportunity now and he has got to take it."

McBurnie signed a three-season professional deal last August as a 17-year-old after scoring for fun in City's youth ranks.

He netted 29 times in just 17 games for the under-18s last term but is still looking to get off the mark for the first team after nearly eight hours of trying.

Parkinson said: "The challenge is there for Olly. Every time he steps on the pitch, he has to show us that we don't need to bring in another forward to back up James Hanson.

"He will improve for that performance on Tuesday, with the experience he's gained and the fitness aspect.

"My expectancy level for him is rising. It's up to him to step up to the plate.

"We're not looking at him as a young kid any more. It's nearly a year since he made his debut.

"We've nursed him along and now it's time for him to say 'I'm ready'.

"There are people in the Premier League playing regularly at 18 and 19 – some are even making the England team. You look at Dele Alli in our division at MK Dons, he's the same age as Olly.

"He's now got to push himself and force his way into our thinking."

Both McBurnie's starts this season have come in cup games away from Valley Parade. Tomorrow could be his first at home since Bristol City in January, when he partnered Hanson the day after Nahki Wells had been sold.

He twice went close to scoring in that game but has found chances hard in recent outings. His closest on Tuesday was a header wide in the first half.

Parkinson said: "Obviously a first goal will help him. But the fitter and stronger he is, when he gets those chances he will take them.

"I don't think it is bothering him because he's a confident lad. He is a very good finisher. He scores all types of goals in training.

"With Olly, it's more about that understanding of how hard you've got to work every day to become a professional footballer. He is getting there with that.

"You've got to have that attitude to work every single day in training because it's a difficult industry to break into.

"It's been slow progress to teach him that. Maybe last year he was progressed a little bit quicker than he should have been."

City are also on top of the back problem which first troubled McBurnie when he was younger. It flared up again on the opening day of pre-season, causing him to miss a chunk of the warm-up games.

His manager said: "We protected Olly through pre-season because he has had a few injury problems. He is lot better than he was and looking stronger.

"He knows he is an ongoing project for our medical team to get him in the right condition to reproduce consistent performances."