KELVIN Mellor could be pressed straight into duty as City are forced into a defensive reshuffle at free-scoring Luton tonight.

The defender only returned to training yesterday from the broken toe that has kept him out of the last eight games.

But with David Hopkin two men down at the back against the fourth-placed Hatters, Mellor is poised for an immediate return.

City’s appeal against Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s red card in the Oxford win failed yesterday afternoon to leave the Bantams boss minus half of the back four who kept that first clean sheet since October 2.

Skipper Anthony O’Connor had already been ruled out after reaching five bookings.

Hopkin admits he has some thinking to do in the backline – and could even consider playing Karl Henry there. Thomas Isherwood is also on standby but the head coach may go with more experience.

And he would have no qualms about playing Mellor so soon after coming back from his lay-off.

Hopkin said: “Kelvin’s a fit lad, he doesn’t carry anything on him so he could go straight back in.

“Ideally I wouldn’t have been prepared to put him in but with things going against us, I may have to play him.

“But it’s good that he’s back and travelled with us. It’s another boost for us defensively.”

Hopkin was disappointed that Knight-Percival’s dismissal for an alleged elbow on Oxford’s Jamie Hanson could not be overturned. The three-game ban means he will also miss Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Peterborough and the trip to relegation rivals Plymouth.

Hopkin added: “I don’t even think Nat knew (about the incident). He’s not that type of player.

“His arm’s out for leverage and he’s not even touched him.

“I’ve watched it three or four times and I still can’t see why it was given. The referee wasn’t in the best position.

“It’s difficult because it helps you when you have a settled back four. You can change one or two out wide or up front for fresh legs but these are the core of your team.

“We’ve got options but Nat has been doing well for the last four or five games.

“You want to keep a settled back four against a team who are very good at scoring goals and counter-attacking football. We need every bit of experience we have to hopefully continue our run.”

Luton are unbeaten at Kenilworth Road since March and are the division’s home top scorers, putting five past Plymouth in the last game there. But Hopkin can sense a resilience growing within his squad.

He said: “The players have been great at rising to challenges when things have gone against us.

“Saturday’s game with the hype it had and more fans turning up brought more pressure. I thought they handled that occasion great.

“Now this is another chance to face a team in the top six who are doing really well. It’s one that the players will hopefully enjoy.

“But we’ve got to make sure we are switched on from the first minute to the last.

“Luton have built that momentum from going up last season. They’ve probably got a core of players who have been together for a year to 18 months and know how the manager wants to play.

“They have had stability and are organised and hard to play against. We’ve got to try and impose ourselves on them.”