Matt Clarke returns to the heart of the defence tomorrow as City aim to return to winning ways at Lee Sinnott’s Port Vale.

The big defender limped off at Aldershot with a calf injury last week and missed the derby loss to Leeds.

But the problem was diagnosed as severe cramp rather than a tear and he was able to step back into full training yesterday, clearing the way for him to renew his solid partnership with Graeme Lee at Vale Park.

Clarke said: “The calf just tightened up totally last week and was giving me quite a bit of pain.

“Sometimes you can carry on and limp around but I felt like I was playing on one foot for ten minutes.

“There was no point in trying to be proud and stay on the pitch when I might end up handicapping the team. It might have made things worse.

“It’s typical that I missed the Leeds game. Coming from there, I was really looking forward to playing at Elland Road.

“But it wasn’t meant to be and I didn’t want to rush it. I couldn’t force myself through that game because everyone knows the league is the main thing for us.”

Clarke is likely to get the nod over Mark Bower at a ground where City are unbeaten in their last eight visits. Stuart McCall is also expected to bring back those he spared Johnstone’s Paint Trophy duty.

He will also go back to the usual 4-4-2 after switching formations in midweek to play a lone striker.

McCall said: “If we’d gone with our normal system at Leeds, with two in midfield against their three, we could have been ripped apart. So I always intended to play 4-3-3 with Daley and Colbeck pushing on.

“We’ve got the people to play that way if needed but I stress we will do it very rarely. It was just the right way to go that night with the way Leeds lined up.

“I was so pleased with the performance on Tuesday and I wasn’t too disappointed with the way we played at Aldershot. But I know there’s more to come from us.”

City have won 1-0 three times in a row at Vale Park. Only two starters from either side, Joe Colbeck and Vale keeper Joe Anyon, remain from the last clash there 20 months ago but McCall hopes the positive vibes in the recent past will have an effect.

He added: “For some players, that can count psychologically. Like when we played Notts County on the first day, it was fresh in our minds that we’d put in two really good performances against them last season and Peter Thorne had scored four against them.

“I remember as a player going to Portsmouth and often winning. It was the longest trek ever from Bradford but I scored the winner down there when I was 18 and always had a good record.

“Some people have lucky clubs and grounds but I just recall Port Vale for having a big pitch - I was shattered after 20 minutes!”