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Knights boss to field new half-back duo
CONFIDENCE in a new half-back combination, plus the likely return of a pack trio, has given York City Knights boss Gary Thornton renewed hope his injury-hit outfit can beat Workington and return to the play-off places.
The Knights’ tough sequence of matches against Batley, Halifax and Sheffield brought only one point and, perhaps more damagingly, injuries to key personnel.
Combined with Hull recalls for dual-reg players, it had left York down to the bare bones for tomorrow’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with the promoted Cumbrians, and poised to dip into the junior ranks to get a full team out.
However, stalwart prop Adam Sullivan and young second-row Ed Smith are fit again after missing the Sheffield match, and there could also be a surprise return for Matt Nicholson if he is not ruled out by the results of his latest scan – meaning Thornton has 18 first-teamers from which to pick.
And, while stand-off Simon Brown is among the newcomers to the treatment table, head coach Thornton has been encouraged by a burgeoning new half-back partnership between Jonny Presley and Danny Nicklas.
Thornton said: “We’re a young team now. It would be good to pick from strength against a team who we’d ideally want to beat at home, one of the competitors for a lower play-off place. But we’ve got what we’ve got. That said, we look okay. I think we’re all right. It’s testing our strength in depth, but it gives people opportunities.
“I was impressed with Jonny Presley and Danny Nicklas in training. It looked very encouraging. They looked quite sharp at Sheffield when they had ten minutes together at the end of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how that partnership goes.”
Prop Nicholson was expected to be sidelined long-term after suffering a recurrence of a shoulder injury against Batley.
Said Thornton: “He has trained all week and if he can get through a week’s training without making the injury worse, then hopefully he can play.
“If the scan reveals he needs to rest it or stop, he will stop. But he’s desperate to play and is expecting to play.”
The former Dewsbury packman, if fit, will probably start at loose-forward, meaning Player of the Month Jack Aldous can revert to the front row.
Said Thornton: “Jack is an out-and-out prop, not really suited to loose-forward in my opinion. If Sam Scott had been fit, we could have moved Dean Hadley there (from second row). It’s not ideal, but Matty Nicholson is probably more suited to loose-forward than Jack.”
Sullivan had to sit out the Sheffield game due to his troublesome knee, while Smith had a dead leg. Thornton is hoping Brown will likewise only be ruled out for one match, but he has few qualms about giving Nicklas more kicking responsibility or about starting Presley, The Press’ man of the match at Sheffield where he bagged two tries as substitute hooker-turned-half-back.
Said the coach: “Danny is good at leading the team around the field and we’ll switch roles a bit so he takes more of a lead in the kicking department. We’ve probably not seen the best of his kicking because Simon Brown is so dominant in that area, but this gives him an opportunity to step up.
“Jonny was excellent last Friday. He showed spark and was a threat throughout. He probably earned his right to start this week, regardless of Simon’s injury. I was pleased with what he did at dummy-half or at seven (scrum-half). Let’s hope he can kick on.
“Workington will spot him for attack but in possession he’s a threat and you don’t know what he’ll do, so hopefully we can see the benefit of him creating chances.”
Knights (probable): Carr, Latus, Haynes, Briscoe, Elliott, Presley, Nicklas, Aldous, Lee, Potter, Hadley, Smith, Nicholson. Subs: from Brining, Iley, Lyons, Bell, Sullivan.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
• Former Knights forward Dario Esposito has quit Dewsbury to join Sheffield Eagles.
• The Knights supporters’ club will run a coach to the Championship match at Keighley on March 17 if there is enough interest. The price is £16, picking up at the Ainsty at noon, Clarence Street at 12.15pm and Huntington Stadium at 12.30pm.
To book, phone 07763 121732 or see Gary Hall in Bar 13 tomorrow. For train times and prices to Keighley, visit www.tpexpress.co.uk