YOUNG-GUN Adam Dent is poised to make his first-team bow tomorrow as York City Knights welcome big, bruising Championship One dark horses London Skolars to Huntington Stadium.
Local lad Dent, 20, having come through the under-18s, U20s and reserves, has been named on the opposite wing to big brother Ben, with head coach Gary Thornton saying having both siblings in the side is another shot in the arm for the club’s development policy.
Greg Minikin, another of the youth products, also returns from injury, as does back-row favourite Jason Golden.
It’s a notable day for skipper Jack Lee, too, as he makes his 100th club appearance.
“I’ve been impressed with him in training and whenever he’s played in the reserves,” said Thornton of Adam, who was pulled from Thursday night’s second-string match to instead replace George Elliott in the first-team line-up.
“As I said to them at the start of the season, anyone who shows that desire and has that ability and that approach will get a crack in the first team. I think this is the right time for him.
“He’s done exactly what’s been asked of him and I hope he takes his chance with both hands.
“It’s great for him and for Ben and I’m sure his parents will be very proud.”
Ben, 22, who also came through the ranks, has scored in five of the Knights’ six games this term, having bagged two tries in three outings at the end of last season.
Thornton added: “This is what we’re about - giving local lads a chance if we think they’re up to it - and Adam is another of the local talent coming through, which is credit to James Ford (former U20s coach), Mick Ramsden (reserves boss) and the people involved in development.”
The head coach, though, would not be drawn on which of the brothers was the better player.
“He’s certainly got potential,” he said of Adam.
“I rate Ben highly and he’s definitely getting better with more games and more confidence. If Adam is as good as Ben, we will have two very good wingers on our hands.”
Forwards Ryan Backhouse and Jack Pickles played in Thursday’s reserves win over Halifax U20s and have been put on standby for tomorrow as prop Nathan Freer is a doubt due to illness.
Iain Morrison, as previously reported, is also ruled out indefinitely on medical advice having suffered pleurisy.
Thornton is hoping strapping six-footer Freer passes fit, and he could have done with having hard-hitting Morrison available, too, after warning the Skolars’ strength lies in a powerful pack which makes them potential contenders for the sole promotion place.
The Londoners began the league campaign with three defeats but, after beating stragglers South Wales, they enjoyed a Good Friday win at Hemel Stags, despite playing the last quarter a man down after Sam Wellings’ dismissal.
Lamont Bryan, the former London Broncos and Featherstone back-row remains an injury doubt, but ex-Knight Ryan MacDonald, who had been linked with a return to Huntington Stadium, Dave Williams, one-time York target Michael Worrincy, formerly of Super League, and ex-Toulouse hooker Tely Pelo provide plenty of size and know-how in the middle.
At full-back is former Knights and Doncaster winger Dennis Tuffour, while they could also be bolstered this year by dual-reg London Broncos players.
“They’re a huge team - their middle unit is massive,” said Thornton, acknowledging York’s narrow Huntington Stadium pitch could suit their style of play.
“They’re big, strong and direct, and they’ve got some big names in a formidable pack.
“Then there’s Dennis Tuffour at the back, who can be devastating on his day.
“This division is looking tougher than maybe people thought, and we will have to be at our best.”
Skolars coach Joe Mbu is expected to name a similar team to the one that beat Hemel, loose-forward Wellings having escaped a ban.
As for York starting as favourites, Mbu said: “As soon as you fool yourself that you’ll beat the opposition hands down, that’s when they come back and get you.
“I’m quite happy we can just go about doing what we need to do and fly under the radar.”
Knights (probable): Haynes, B Dent, Saltonstall, Minikin, A Dent, B Hardcastle, Presley, Aldous, Lee, Joynt, Mallinder, E Smith, Paterson. Subs: from P Smith, Harper, Freer, Golden, Backhouse, Pickles.
Skolars (possible): Dennis Tuffour, John Paxton, Kazeem Fatouri, Anthony Cox, Judd Greenhalgh, Courtney Davies, Matt Bradley, Tely Pelo, Martyn Smith, Michael Sykes, Mike Worrincy, Dave Williams, Sam Wellings. Subs: Louis Robinson, Rob Thomas, Ryan MacDonald, Dion Chapman.
Referee: Adam Gill (Widnes).