Unlucky Mark Bower is desperate not to be the odd-man-out of City’s defence.

The club’s longest-serving player has found himself frozen out by Stuart McCall’s regular centre-half pairing of Matt Clarke and skipper Graeme Lee.

Bower has been restricted to just one start in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Leeds and an hour of league action after Clarke went down with cramp against Aldershot.

And his chances of breaking into the side in recent weeks have been hampered by a thigh injury.

The 28-year-old admits his timing has been terrible. With injuries and suspension biting into City’s back four, he could not have picked a worse moment to tweak his thigh playing for the reserves.

Bower said: “It’s always frustrating being injured but that makes it worse. You see people coming out of the team and little spots being available and wonder if it was a missed opportunity.

“Unfortunately, this niggly thigh injury is taking its time to go away.

“I can do a lot of straight line running and get up to a decent pace but it’s just that last little sprint and kicking a ball which is proving a bit of a hurdle for me.

“Hopefully it will only be a few more days and then I’ll be available again. We’ve got this busy period coming up now, which is going to test the squad to its limits, so I’d like to think I will be there and in contention for some of that.”

This afternoon’s home clash with Gillingham kicks off a hectic run of five games in a fortnight. Bower, with 252 City games under his belt, is keen to be a part but appreciates that he must play the waiting game.

He added: “I’ve seen it from the other side, being in the team and keeping other people out. The two lads have been doing well in there and I’ve just got to bide my time for a chance.

“If something does change then I’ve got to be there to take it. But I’ve also got to be prepared for the fact that it might not be just round the corner.

“You’ve got to be professional and stay as ready as I possibly can be. There could be a dodgy red card five minutes into the next match or I might have to wait another 20-30 games.

“Of course it’s frustrating but sat in the treatment room you see young lads with cruciate knee injuries out for a long time so I’m not beating myself up.”