GARY THORNTON reckons his York City Knights side will be in for a tough battle tomorrow – and admits it could be tricky to strike a balance between building for the new season and saving blushes.
The Championship outfit face a York Select XIII at Huntington Stadium (3pm), the charity challenge against a team of leading amateurs resuming after a three-year hiatus with the scores standing at one win each, and one game drawn.
And while he was eager to get his reign as Knights boss off to a winning start, he also recognised the significance of performance and of blowing off cobwebs a month before the campaign kicks off.
“It’s a bit of all three,” he said when asked which was most important. “Obviously we want to win. We want to win every game we play and this one is no different.
“But there are a lot of new combinations and it’s our first hit-out. We’ve had few occasions to get the ball in hand in training because of the weather.
“I’m also hoping we can put on a performance. We need to start getting to know each other better – and there’s no better way to do that than in a game.”
Thornton will also warn his players not to be out-gunned.
“The Select side will be well up for it,” he said. “I don’t know an awful lot about them but Mick Ramsden (assistant-coach) knows many of them. He’s impressed with the team they’re putting out.
“One or two of them have played semi-pro before or come close. The one thing they will definitely have is enthusiasm and desire and sometimes that can take you a long way. We have to match that and be clinical and patient.
“It will be a test of our mental toughness and character, and it will show what kind of squad we’ve got. I’m looking forward to it. It’s the first game out and the boys are looking to impress.
“It will be a tough test for us, and it will be good to win and to underpin that with a good performance and get us game-ready and hardened.”
Captain James Ford and new recruit Aaron Lyons start in the centres and the Knights faithful are also set to get a first look at full-back Tom Carr, like Lyons an arrival from Featherstone. Carr and Jack Lee were expected to be okay after pre-season knocks, although Thornton won’t risk anyone not 100 per cent, which is why forwards Sam Orange, Austin Bell and Tim Stubbs are sitting the game one out, Stubbs having had minor knee surgery.
Trialists Jake Joynt and Lee Nobbs will get a run-out, while former Batley and Oldham forward Luke Stenchion is on the bench. George Elliott is ill with tonsillitis.
No dual-reg players from partnership club Hull are involved.
Admission is specially priced, at £10 for adults and £3 for under-16s.
The Huntington Stadium clash will raise money for the Boxing Bowel Cancer fund set up in aid of Caldwell’s wife, schoolteacher Christine, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 29.
The main turnstiles open at 2pm and the Jockey Lane entrance is ticket only and open from 2.30pm. Access to Bar 13 is available from 12.30pm via main reception.
Knights (probable): Carr, Nobbs, Ford, Lyons, Dent, Brown, Presley, Joynt, Lee, Aldous, Scott, Golden, Iley. Subs: from Hemmings, Stenchion, Craig, Brining, Poutney, Minikin, Tomlinson.