GARY THORNTON has intimated he will have one eye on March as he works out his team to take on big-guns Halifax on Sunday.
Thornton’s York City Knights side suffered knocks aplenty at Batley last weekend but life is not likely to get easier against title hopefuls Fax in their last game of February or against champions Sheffield Eagles five days later.
The Knights are rank outsiders to pick up points in either encounter and Thornton admits he is having to “balance” hopes of causing shocks on those occasions with the more realistic victory chances that follow in the ensuing weeks, and select sides accordingly.
“I have to balance it out,” explained the 50-year-old.
“These are three very tough games (starting at Batley). We want to go into things game by game and we want to win every game we play.
“But looking a bit further ahead, we then face Workington, Keighley and Doncaster – three games which we realistically should be winning.
“We will go into the Halifax and Sheffield games wanting to win them, but then there are games coming up that we can be confident we can win.”
Thornton strongly refutes suggestions of giving up the ghost against Fax and Sheffield in order to get his team in tip-top condition for the following games.
But he did say he would not risk half-fit front-line players in the next two matches.
“Absolutely not,” replied the head coach when asked if he was contemplating forfeiting the next six points to focus on picking up wins in the ensuing three games.
“We can beat Halifax at home if we play like we did against Swinton.
“There are things we need to address from last week – we gave some really soft tries away and we were soft in collision – but we did some good stuff as well, only we didn’t do enough of it.
“We conceded a lot of penalties because of losing the collision and we got penalised out of it.
“It will be a test of the size and quality in the squad and younger guys will have to come in and help out.
“But we’ll be putting nobody in a situation that could injure them more or keep them out for six or eight weeks.”
The Knights already have a list of injury concerns just three games into the season, with captain James Ford, props Matt Nicholson, Luke Stenchion and Austin Bell, hooker Jack Lee, Aaron Lyons and dual-reg half-back Danny Nicklas on the treatment table at one time or another, while top try-scorer Tom Lineham has returned to parent club Hull due to injuries in those ranks too.
“With it being a fairly quick turnaround, playing Sunday then Friday, I won’t risk anybody who isn’t 100 per cent fit,” added Thornton.
“It’s damage limitation in terms of injuries. I don’t want to put someone in (against Halifax and Sheffield) and then see them ruled out for a longer period.
“I don’t want to look beyond the next game but I have to balance things.”