MARK Bower has issued a rallying cry for players lower down the pecking order in his injury-hit squad to make a statement against York City today.

Despite having a reasonably quiet December so far, only getting out on three occasions, Bradford are still struggling with numbers through injuries and suspensions leaving only 12 fully fit outfield players available for selection.

Ex-Leeds United centre half Luke Lyons has finally been given a chance in recent weeks, becoming a vital player in place of the absentees.

And with captain Luca Havern set to be out, Lyons, who has been playing holding midfield, will be aiming to form a strong partnership with Mark Ross at the heart of the defence.

Bower said: "It is really difficult for us with the size of club that we are and the resources we have got available. So, when we lose so many it is tough.

"We knew this season, with the fixtures coming thick and fast, there would be spells where this would be the case we have just got to get through it and pick up some points.

"Sometimes it's what lads need to get that unexpected chance, maybe in a slightly different position, and it can be the making of them.

"Luke is a centre half but can play in that holding role. The experience would have done him good and he is certainly going to be needed over these next few weeks.

"There's an opportunity for him to go cement a place in the team to then when we do get players back say 'you are not having that shirt back because I have done my job well.'

"That is what we are about this year, giving young players the chance to step in and make a career in the game."

After being stranded at home all month, the Avenue boss has recovered from Covid-19 and finally returns to the dugout this afternoon.

York are once again the bookies best bet to rejoin the Vanarama National League. Three wins in their last four games have propelled them into the playoff places with games in hand to go ahead of table toppers Gloucester.

What makes matters worse is that Bower has never beaten City at Horsfall in three attempts.

He added: "It seems like ages since I have been to a game so I'm looking forward to getting back into it against one of the best teams in the league.

"You will always have teams that you will do better against than others, it is just funny how football can work.

"York are a massive club at this level, full-time with their massive squad of quality players, it is always going to be difficult every time we come up against them.

"They have been playing catch up over the last few weeks, clicked into gear and had some good results in the league before the trophy fixture.

"They will be looking at Christmas, playing us twice, a team they are expected to beat, and wanting to be near the top of the league by the end of it.

"It is a great game for our lads to be involved in and hopefully they can stand up and produce their best."