GARY THORNTON admits there is added pressure on York City Knights to win and win well tomorrow when they host York Select XIII in their final friendly.
The Knights have beaten Championship One rivals Gateshead in pre-season but have lost to Super League side Castleford and, narrowly, to Championship champions Sheffield.
Tomorrow’s game gives them the chance to go into their league season on a winning note and, while head coach Thornton reckoned the performance is still more important than the scoreline at this stage of the year, he said getting a notable result would catch the eye of supporters and lay down a marker for the campaign to come.
“Following on from last week’s good performance against Sheffield, it would be seen as a backward step if we don’t win this one comfortably,” he said.
“It’s one of those no-win situations in some respects. Even if we win by 50-odd points, people would say we should win. If we lose, then we’d get stick, even though there are no points at stake.
“As with all pre-season games it’s not really about winning, but we’re looking to win the game and I would hope we do that well.
“The main things are the performance and not picking injuries up but, while we need to come out of the game healthy, we also need a good victory.”
Iain Morrison, the former Widnes, Hull KR and Featherstone forward, finally comes in for his Knights bow, probably starting on the bench.
New club captain Jason Golden makes his long-awaited return after 11 months’ injury absence, joining Ed Smith in the second row.
Lee Paterson has also passed fit to start at loose-forward, and player/assistant-coach James Ford, having returned from ankle surgery against Sheffield, gets another run at centre as Thornton, as expected, fields all of his big guns.
Ben Dent returns from the injury he suffered against Gateshead to take his place out wide, with Luke Hardcastle getting a go at full-back, James Haynes swapping onto the other wing. Hopes that Ben Reynolds could play on dual-reg from Castleford have not materialised.
Asked if the line-up suggested his thinking for the season opener against Gloucestershire All Golds on March 2, Thornton said: “There are clues in there, though there are one or two places we’re looking at.
“Looking at the pack, there’s a fair indication there, although with Ryan Mallinder and Ed Smith, for example, we’ve got two lads who could easily start.
“Ryan’s had a lot of game-time already, though, and we don’t want to over-play anyone before the season starts.
“There are clues to the 17 but there are lads who could come into it, like Ryan, or George Elliott and Jack Pickles.”
Elliott, Pickles and Ben Crane are absent altogether, but Thornton added. “It’s just a case of sharing game-time out as best we can.”
Thornton is still to decide his first-choice half-back pairing, with Benn Hardcastle and Pat Smith starting together tomorrow.
He said: “Last week we started with Pat and Jonny Presley. I’ve not seen a lot of Benn and Pat together as we moved Pat to hooker last week.
“I’ve seen Jonny and Benn, and Pat and Jonny, but little of Benn and Pat, so it’s a chance to look at that combination.”
Knights (probable): L Hardcastle, B Dent, Minikin, Ford, Haynes, B Hardcastle, P Smith, Aldous, Lee, Bell, E Smith, Golden, Paterson. Subs: Tomlinson, Morland, Presley, Morrison, Brining, Joynt, Mallinder, Orange.
York Select XIII (probable): Budd, Gallacher, Woods, Thompson, Johnson (all Acorn), L Gargan (New Earswick), Chilton, Endersby (both Acorn), Carling, Stearman (both New Earswick), Withington (Heworth), Porter, A Gargan (both Acorn). Subs: Embleton, Speck, Burns, McTigue, Myers, Hyde, Rientoul (all Acorn), Payne (Heworth).
• TWO Batley players have been banned by a Rugby Football League rules tribunal after they were found to have breached rules relating to betting.
Jonny Campbell has been suspended for 12 months for placing bets on a number of games, including the 2013 Championship Grand Final, in which Batley lost to Sheffield Eagles. Campbell, who played in that match, placed a bet for the first points of the final to come from a Batley penalty goal and a handicap bet on the fixture.
Ayden Faal has been suspended for six months after placing a bet for the first points of the final to come from a Batley penalty. Faal did not play in the match.
There was no suggestion of match fixing by either player.