GARY THORNTON reckons he has learned a lot of telling lessons from York City Knights’ defeat yesterday – not least about the need to bolster the squad’s strength in depth.

The Knights, fielding a team littered with youngsters and fringe players, plus a couple of trialists, lost 38-16 to virtually a full-strength North Wales Crusaders team.

The fact likely first-choice forwards Jason Golden and Luke Stenchion departed early on with injuries made it even more of a disappointing afternoon for head coach Thornton – but he said it proved a worthwhile exercise, leaving him knowing more about his squad ahead of the Championship opener in three weeks’ time. He also hoped it provided the youngsters in his team with some important lessons.

“There were too many young kids out there – which is something I’ve been wanting to avoid,” he admitted. “But there were some good lessons learned. I wanted to see the strength in depth – and I think we do need to think about strengthening in some areas.

“Some Hull players should come in (on loan or dual-registration). But it’s opened my eyes as to where we are in terms of strength in depth.

“We had to do quite a bit of a late reshuffle and the players weren’t good enough on the day. Hopefully they will learn from it. That’s what it’s all about at this stage. They need to take it as good experience.”

Thornton had said in the build-up to the friendly that he did not want to field too many kids all at once this term – something his predecessor, Chris Thorman, had often had to do in 2012, with no joy.

But he had to follow suit for this game after championship-winners Sam Scott and Simon Brown both failed fitness tests – Scott having hurt a knee in training while Brown banged his back in last week’s game against York Select – while, in a late decision, James Haynes and Matty Nicholson were both given another week off before making their comebacks.

Aaron Lyons was ruled out with flu so, with captain James Ford always sitting this one out and with Jon Goddard not yet considered due to work commitments, teenage centre Greg Minikin was thrust into the starting line-up.

Experienced props Adam Sullivan and Paul King are still sidelined and Jack Aldous was also rested. It got worse, too, as Jason Golden and Luke Stenchion departed with hip and ankle problems. Stenchion’s injury appeared worse on first viewing.

Thornton said: “I’m disappointed with the result. There were a lot of individual errors and it was a bit of an eye-opener for one or two, realising that’s what it takes to play at this level.

“That said, we had eight or nine players who are 19 or under, including two who are 17. We had a lot of young kids. I knew it would be tough for them against a big, strong, experienced Crusaders team.

“For the first 25 minutes we looked quite strong and we played a lot in their third but didn’t capitalise on that and we gave a few soft tries away off own our errors. I was disappointed with some of the soft defence. We did lack experience. The good thing is there weren’t two points at stake. That’s what these games are for, to have a look at what we’ve got.”