CHRIS Smith's importance to Worcester City cannot be overstated.

He has a calm and assured presence in defence that breeds confidence throughout the team.

Player-manager Andy Pree-ce has often spoken of how the former Leeds youngster has the potential to play at a higher level and put his money where his mouth is by signing him to a new contract in Dec-ember.

To draw a comparison with Gary Neville at Manchester United, Smith is one of those players whose contribution can sometimes go unnoticed.

Yet how City have missed him when he's not been there this season. Before last night's match with Vauxhall Motors, each time the 25-year-old has sat out a Nationwide North match, City have lost.

A five-booking suspension forced Smith to sit in the stands against Hucknall Town in October. City lost 4-2.

Illness ruled him out the Leigh RMI match at St George's Lane in December and City lost 2-1 despite dominating the match. His two-match ban for 10 bookings saw him absent for Saturday's trip to Scarborough and the FA Trophy trip to Welling.

City lost both games, albeit the latter with Des Lyttle missing as well.

The only game that bucks the trend is the replay victory against Romulus back in September when Smith was left out suffering from a broken hand.

Smith says: "It's just a coincidence." But it's an interesting statistic nonetheless.

City will be glad to have Smith back in their ranks, and by his own admission he hates not being involved.

"It's the worst thing ever, he said. "It's like being injured. You really want to go on the pitch but you can't.

"I think I have missed three games through suspension and one FA Cup game through injury and a league game through ilnness. I don't like not playing."

He added: "Because we have lost it's so frustrating. We have been fortunate that results have gone for us.

"It's a punishment I have had to just deal with, I have no-one else to blame but myself."

Despite Saturday's loss, Smi-th is confident City have the players to make a success of this season.

He said: "We are still in touch and if we win our couple of games in hand I believe the lads can turn it around.

"Some teams have played 28 games but we have just got to take one game at a time."

City face two matches a week until the end of the month and visit current Nationwide North leaders Droylsden at the beginning of March.

But it is the home games - against the likes of basement boys Lancaster City and lowly Stalybridge Celtic - that Smith believes Worcester need to take advantage of.

He said: "Going into March we have got a hard run-in but we have got some good home fixtures we need to win."