WORCESTER City ace Jamie Smith is being handled with “kid gloves” as he works his way back to full fitness after an injury-hit 2018-19 campaign.

A “serious” neck problem forced the left-back to miss a large portion of City’s Midland League Premier Division season.

This month has seen Smith feature in the 1-0 win at Bewdley Town and 4-2 defeat at Pershore Town but play no part in Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss at Stratford Town.

There is a chance Smith could be fit for Saturday’s friendly against Rushall Olympic at Bromsgrove's Victoria Ground (3pm).

But manager Ashley Vincent said he was wary of putting Smith at risk of suffering an injury setback.

“Jamie has been training and featured in two of the games but we are taking care of him as his injury was serious,” Smith said.

“He wasn’t totally right to play on Tuesday night so we looked after him and he worked with the physio.

“We will take another look at him and see if he can get some game-time this weekend.

“But he is probably the only one in the squad that we are handling with kid gloves.

“We are not going to take risks at this stage as we don’t feel we have to.

“What we ultimately want is for everybody to be fit and available for selection for the first day of the season and moving forward.”

Smith, who made 21 appearances last term, has gone through intense spells of physiotherapy and rehabilitation work to overcome a disc bulge between his C4 and C5 vertebrae.

“It has been a frustrating time for him,” Vincent said.

“It is going to take a while to regain that fitness and confidence knowing that physical contact won’t put him back to square one.

“But that’s the nature of an injury like that so he will need to be patient.

“Hopefully we can get him into a position where he is where the other boys are fitness-wise and ready to go for the start of the season.

“He has undoubted quality so if we can get him up and running then he has got every chance (of earning a starting shirt).”

Vincent was pleased with his side’s display in the defeat at Stratford but wants to see an even better performance against Rushall.

“We are looking to push the boundaries by giving players more minutes,” Vincent said.

“We want to see some patterns of play evolving on the pitch so I am looking for that little bit more from my players.

“It is pre-season so it is about getting them into the best shape and frame of mind possible going into the season.

“But naturally we want to see progression in each game and training session until we start the season when we will look to hit the ground running.”