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Forward changes on York City Knights chief’s cards
YORK City Knights boss Gary Thornton is reluctant to change a winning team following their demolition job on Workington – but shuffling the pack is a possibility given that ins and outs are imminent.
The in-form Matty Nicholson, although still in the reckoning, is now booked in for surgery on his troublesome shoulder just after Easter, after which he will be sidelined for three to six months, while Adam Sullivan will have his long-awaited injection in his bad knee next Wednesday.
Thornton’s priority regards getting the best out of his front-rowers over a busy Kingstone Press Championship period which takes in Sunday trips to Keighley and Doncaster before the Easter double-header at the end of the month. And that will have to entail some chopping and changing now that Sullivan will miss the Donny match and Bank Holiday games against Featherstone and Barrow, while another prop, Austin Bell, also needs to rest a few niggling injuries.
Additionally, Ed Smith is again struggling with a dead leg, fellow second-row Sam Scott doesn’t look like returning to fitness in time for Keighley this weekend, and Aaron Lyons, who provides back-row cover, has now joined the injury list – and will need a scan on a knee – after limping off against Workington.
Providing relief, however, is the fact front-rower Luke Stenchion is in contention to at last make his debut, after being told playing probably won’t worsen his ankle problem before he has a cortisone injection on March 28 to finally sort it out.
As is the return to the club of Nathan Freer next week, after he completes rugby union commitments at Bishop Burton College, where he has a scholarship.
Thornton said: “It will be a tough decision whether to change anything after the way they played last weekend. But it will be good to give some of these front-rowers a rest – we’re battering them quite hard at the minute.
“Matt was sore on Monday with his shoulder. He’ll be available up to April 3 so we can get some games out of him before he goes in for his op. It’ll be a massive blow when he goes, especially if it’s for the season.“Austin is also playing a bit broken at the minute and we know about Adam Sullivan’s knee. Luke Stenchion had a full training session (this week) and will come into contention if there’s no reaction.”
The probable return of Freer, as revealed by The Press five weeks ago, is also well-timed.
Thornton said: “He could come into contention for Doncaster or, if he’s not yet ready, over Easter. I don’t know a lot about him but I remember the good season he had here before Featherstone picked him up.
“He’s a big, strong, athletic lad and we’re short on size, and, while he’s still young, he’s got plenty of experience in the Championship.”
In the backs, captain James Ford is hoping to pass fit to return, but stand-off Simon Brown is still struggling with a back complaint.