GARY THORNTON reckons next Sunday’s pre-season friendly against Gateshead will provide a better marker of where his York City Knights side are in their preparations than their trip to The Jungle.

A young Knights side missing more than half of their first-choice players lost 62-6 at new partner club Castleford yesterday, the Tigers having fielded a predominantly Super League side.

Several of those frontline players will be back next weekend, though, when York take on a fellow Championship One outfit for the first time.

“It was our first blow-out and it was against a Super League club putting out a strong side. That’s not really what you want for your first run-out but it is how it is,” said Thornton of the Paul Higgins Memorial challenge match.

“They’re a hard team to handle and we were light up front in the props. I knew we would struggle to hold them, but there were lots of positives.

“Gateshead will be a truer reflection of where we’re at. We’re miles away from the start of our season (on March 2) and we have a long way to go. Cas are way in front of us in that regard as their season begins sooner, plus they are full-time. They’ve also played already. You’ve got to bear all that in mind.”

Head coach Thornton admitted to being disappointed at the final scoreline – six of the home tries came in the final quarter, giving the result a lopsided look – but he was far from displeased with his troops.

Cas had led 26-0 after 29 minutes but York won the next 29 minutes 6-0, prior to the hosts’ late salvo.

“We knew we would have to do a lot of defending,” he said. “There was some good stuff done.

“We got ourselves back in the game and I think in that period – the ten minutes before half-time and the 20 after half-time – we matched them and looked as good as they did.

“I think Daryl Powell (Cas coach) noticed that and put his big guns back on.

“Jake Joynt and Austin Bell in the middle were very good, Pat Smith and Benn Hardcastle showed some nice touches, the two wingers (Curtis Macdonald and Ben Dent) were good, as was Greg Minikin.

“We’ve learnt quite a bit.

“The score of 26-6 with about 20 minutes to play was a good effort by us. I’m disappointed with the margin in the end because the lads didn’t really deserve that. I’m not worried about the score, though.

“We had lots of young lads out there and we’ve got a lot of players to come back. The likes of Jason Golden, Lee Paterson, Jack Lee, James Ford, Jack Aldous, Iain Morrison – they are big names to come back in.”