LIONHEART defender Chris Smith is expected to win his fitness battle to tame Hyde United's Tigers.

Smith jarred his knee during Worcester City's 1-1 draw at Stafford Rangers on Boxing Day and was substituted moments into the second-half.

The centre-half continued to struggle with the knee injury on Tuesday, but he has made reasonable progress since and will be desperate to start City's first ever clash against United tomorrow.

On the only two occasions Smith failed to appear in Nationwide North fixtures this season -- against Droylsden and Harrogate -- Worcester lost both and shipped a total of six goals, so player-manager Andy Preece will be desperate that his summer signing recovers in time.

Preece, however, does have bundles of faith in young Danny Hodnett, who replaced Smith at Marston Road and has shown to be more than effective in a number of positions.

"Danny has done great for us this season," said Preece. "Every time he's been called on, he's never let us down. It's great to have a player like that in the squad.

"He's coming on strong and if Chris is not quite ready for Hyde, then I'm sure Danny will do another good job. I never worry about putting Danny in.

"Chris was struggling on Tuesday, he could hardly walk. But he's since been feeling a bit better and we'll see how he feels nearer the game. It's just a bit of jarring around his knee.

"It was probably a good decision to bring Chris off when I did. He got a kick on his knee, so it was not worth risking him for the full game.

"We cannot afford to be without players for four, five or six weeks."

The return of captain Graham Hyde, absent for the away double at Redditch and Stafford with illness, is another boost for Worcester.

There are doubts whether tomorrow's fixture at Ewen Fields will survive the recent cold snap, although temperatures in Tameside are expected to stay above freezing during the early hours.

If the game goes ahead, it presents City with another opportunity to record their long-awaited first league triumph on the road.

Worcester were denied at leaders Stafford by a late equaliser, but they had themselves to blame for missing good chances to wrap up three points.

On the same day, the Tigers, last season's Unibond League Premier Division champions, received a 3-1 whipping off Greater Manchester derby rivals Stalybridge Celtic.

But prior to that, Hyde chalked up four successive league wins to reach mid-table.

Preece added: "Hyde have hit good form and got themselves up the table. They got beaten by a good Stalybridge side, but I think they are starting to motor.

"They have recently brought in one or two good players and they are a very capable side.

"It will be another hard game, but we must look at our previous games and think that if we play just as well, then we should not have a problem.

"If we manage the sort of performance we gave at Stafford, then it will take a good side to beat us."

City's next St George's Lane encounter is against promotion-chasing Stafford Rangers on Monday (3pm).