GARY THORNTON has admitted envying the riches at Karl Harrison’s disposal as York City Knights prepare to take on big-guns Halifax tomorrow faced by a deepening injury crisis.
Knights head coach Thornton said this week he had never known such injury woe just three games into a season yet since then the concerns have got even worse, leaving him dipping deep into the fringes.
Fingers were being kept crossed that partner club Hull suffered no new injuries against Warrington tonight as that, too, would impinge on Thornton’s line-up with players being recalled.
Harrison, on the other hand, has little such worry and, even if he did, has far more strength in depth to call on in his Halifax ranks.
Asked if he felt any jealousy ahead of tomorrow’s Kingstone Press Championship encounter at Huntington Stadium (3pm), Thornton said: “Everybody would like to have the strength in depth of the likes of Halifax, Leigh, Featherstone or even Batley. I’m envious of squads that can rest players and make like-for-like changes. Any coach would want that.
“There are those that have and those that have not and at the moment we’re on the have-nots.”
Half-back Danny Nicklas and prop Matty Nicholson had already been sidelined while top-scorer Tom Lineham is back at parent club Hull, and now, after training on Thursday night, centre Aaron Lyons and prop Luke Stenchion, who had been poised to make his debut after injury, have also been ruled out, while James Ford has suffered a setback in his expected return from a quad strain.
There are also new doubts about key men Simon Brown and back-rower Jason Golden, while stalwart prop Adam Sullivan is struggling with his ongoing knee complaint but will play through the pain. He is still awaiting an injection to sort it out but, ironically, it might be a good thing he has not yet had it as, given he would then need a fortnight’s rest, the Knights would be down to two fit first-team props.
Said Thornton: “I always said one of our biggest problems would be keeping our best 17 fit because if we did have to call on squad players all at the same time then it would be tough.
“If we got our best 17 out we’d be a match for anybody but we’ve not been able to do that. It’s testing the resources of the squad.
“Halifax play again on Thursday so maybe he (Harrison) will rest one or two but I imagine the players he brings in will be as good as anyone he rests.”
In better news, hooker Jack Lee is expected to pass fit and dual-reg Hull player Dean Hadley is poised to resume in the back row. Outside-backs Jack Briscoe and Joe Arundel also remain on dual-reg, with prop Josh Bowden set for a timely return – but the Knights need Hull to come through unscathed tonight otherwise Arundel and Bowden would be recalled to the KC Stadium.
“We really are under the cosh, which is a bit worrying when we’re facing one of the top five, probably top three, teams,” said Thornton, who has added to his squad James Haynes, under-20s players Jack Iley and Kriss Brining, and George Elliott, who bagged two tries in Wednesday’s U20s win at Oldham.
“It has seemed to get worse as the week has gone on. We can only do our best – which we will do.”
To that end, Thornton is hoping the Huntington Stadium faithful stay behind his troops.
“They were excellent against Swinton and at Batley. We wish there were more of them but they’re a genuine group of fans who come week in, week out. We need to give them something to cheer – but right now we need all the help we can get.”
Knights: from Carr, Dent, Latus, Arundel, Ford, Elliott, J Briscoe, Brown, Presley, Sullivan, Lee, Aldous, Hadley, Scott, Golden, Smith, Brining, Bell, Bowden, Haynes, Iley.