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Knights will relish open spaces – boss
GARY THORNTON is optimistic his York City Knights side can show a different dimension tonight as they take on the Kingstone Press Championship champions on the big open spaces of Bramall Lane.
The Knights visit Sheffield (7.30pm) as rank outsiders knowing they will have to change tack to combat not only a power-packed Eagles side but also a pitch which, being considerably bigger than their own, offers a different challenge in defence and attack.
They will have to do so without Joe Arundel, who has been recalled by Hull due to injury worries in their outside backs, but Thornton reckons he still has wide-men who can make their mark, boosted, he hopes, by the timely return to fitness of captain James Ford as well as half-back Danny Nicklas.
Thornton said: “Our pitch at Huntington Stadium is one of the smallest in the league, and this is one of the biggest. It offers new challenges but it offers opportunities because we can play football as well.
“We’ve got some decent footballers in our side, especially out wide. I’ve been impressed with Jack Briscoe, Jack Latus has shown good form, George Elliott has an opportunity to shine, and James Ford is back.
“Sheffield have plenty of pace and ability in their backs with the likes of QLT (Quentin Lualu-Togagae) and Misi Taulapapa.
“On this pitch it will be a different experience to defend against but also to play with. I’m looking forward to seeing what we do attack-wise.”
Ford missed two games due to a quad strain but, barring any new setbacks, he will retake Arundel’s centre berth tonight.
Before being sidelined, he had scored two tries in two games this year, making it 12 in his last 15 appearances stretching back to last season when he formed a centre-wing partnership with Elliott, who, is poised to make his seasonal bow and re-form that alliance.
Nicklas, meanwhile, resumes his half-back partnership with former Sheffield organiser-in-chief Simon Brown, with Jonny Presley likely to return to the bench.
Elsewhere, Jack Iley was set to make his debut off the bench, while Aaron Lyons could start in the second row in place of crocked ex-Eagle Sam Scott, should he feel no ill-effects from last night’s U20s run-out against Salford, following his hip injury.
If he doesn’t make it, Jack Aldous could drop into the back row, newcomer Craig Potter being an extra prop option.
Said Thornton: “Joe Arundel has done really well for us but James has got that experience and ability.
“He’ll want to do well against his old club too, as will Simon Brown, Jonny Presley and Jack Latus. We’ve said before, we want to do well for guys going back to former clubs.”
He added: “We have more options with Danny in there. When Jonny’s on the bench, he can go on at scrum-half, stand-off or hooker. It helps us to mix things up.”
Tonight’s match ends a particularly tough run of fixtures against three of the Championship’s likely top five, which brought a heavy defeat at Batley but a deserved point against Halifax.
“At the beginning of this three-game run we told the boys to prepare for tough tests. Sheffield will be similar to the other two – they have a good back three, plenty of pace, threats all over the park and strength up front.
“The boys probably know a bit more about what to expect now and I’m hoping they will be a bit better prepared. We expect another game played at fairly high intensity.
“I saw a definite improvement against Halifax and we’re looking for more this time.”
Knights (possible): Carr, Elliott, Ford, Briscoe, Latus, Brown, Nicklas, Bowden, Lee, Aldous, Lyons, Hadley, Golden. Subs: from Presley, Sullivan, Iley, Potter, Bell, Haynes.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).