Oxford City boss Mike Ford says the continued absence of Liam Malone from his Blue Square Bet side gives new signing Callum McNish the chance to hold down a midfield place, although he has a tough act to follow.

Malone, who has not played since the goalless draw at Brackley on Boxing Day, went for a scan on an ankle injury this week and Ford admits he has no idea when Malone will return to action.

“He hasn’t played a full game for at least a month and has been a been in and out with other injuries,” said Ford.

“So we’ve been without him for around three months.

“We have missed him. When people talk about the attributes you need to be a good footballer such as ability, pace and how they can cross the ball, but never mention the importance of character or attitude.

“You can have all the skill in the world, but if you are not prepared to roll your sleeves up and be part of a team then I don’t want you in my side.

“Since Liam came to us from Ardley United, he has helped us to two promotions and he is not out of place in the Blue Square Bet North.

“His character is second to none and he’s been a big loss.

“Players may have the ability, but are they prepared to do that bit more and battle hard when things go against you?

“Liam does that and so does Andy Ballard. Their spirit epitomises what I want from my players.

“With Liam out, Callum has the opportunity to establish himself in the side.”

Meanwhile, Ford has made contingency plans should tomorrow’s trip to Stalybridge Celtic be called off.

“I can’t say the chances are nil, but I think the warmer temperatures will come too late for Saturday,” he said. “The coach is not due to leave until 9.30am, so we have plans to train at 9am on the 3G.

“I think the Bradford PA game (Monday) will be on.”