HEAD coach Gary Thornton says there are several reasons for York City Knights to go out all guns blazing against Whitehaven - but upsetting ex-boss Dave Woods isn’t one of them.
Woods returns again to Huntington Stadium for tomorrow’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup third round tie (3pm), having already got one over on his former club by beating them home and away last year and contributing to their relegation to Championship One.
Thornton says revenge for those defeats should be in his players’ minds, as should a desire to cause a cup shock and bag a potentially money-spinning fourth round against Super League opposition.
But he says the fact it’s Aussie Woods who will be on the sidelines is immaterial.
“I know Dave in coaching circlesand there’s no ill-feeling between me and him,” said Thornton.
“We also have a very different squad to when Dave was here.
Apart from a few like Jack Lee and Nathan Freer, there aren’t too many players left and there are no hangovers as far as that’s concerned.
No matter what happened between Dave and the club, it’s more important to focus on what we do as a group than what’s happened in the past.”
Thornton is not risking two key men - Lee Paterson and Jason Golden - against the Cumbrians after they picked up knocks in last week’s win at Hunslet, but he insists that does not suggest the club are taking tomorrow’s tie lightly.
“It’s a big game for us,” he said.
“This is the only cup competition we’ve got this year with there being no Northern Rail Cup. We want to be in the hat and hopefully get a tie that will generate income for the club.“There are lots of reasons why it’s a big game - we want to challenge ourselves to get through, to beat a team from a higher division, and to beat a team we lost twice to last year.
“I thought they were a team we could pick off last season but we got nothing apart from a bonus point at their place. We’ll be looking to put that right. It will be a test, though.
“They play in a higher division with a higher intensity (than in Championship One). That’s the level we now aspire to, and this game will be a good indicator of where we’re at in comparison.”
The Knights have won both of their Championship One matches to date, while Haven followed two Championship defeats with a surprise win over Dewsbury last week.
Thornton added: “It’s a game we’re capable of winning. We’re in good form.
“They had an indifferent start but then that great win over Dewsbury. We’re in a very positive frame of mind and we want to take that on.”
Golden (shoulder) and Paterson (groin) are both expected back for next week’s league match against South Wales Scorpions.
Taking their places in the 17 tomorrow are Kriss Brining, who is set to feature in the back row rather than at hooker, and Ben Crane, although Iain Morrison may step in if he overcomes the chest infection that ruled him out against Hunslet.
Full-back James Haynes finally makes his third debut for the club following his injury in preseason, and James Morland is back at centre, after Castleford, as expected, withdrew Ben Reynolds and Jake Webster so they don’t get cup-tied.
Harry Carter will make his 2014 bow as replacement hooker, Benn Hardcastle likely to make way. Tyler Craig is also in the squad after excelling in Thursday’s reserves win over Keighley.
Along with Woods, full-back Tom Carr and playmaker Neil Thorman return to Huntington Stadium with Haven.
Woods said: “York play at a lower level than us now but they’re the best team in that level. They’d be able to play at our level no problem, so we can’t underestimate them. We’re confident but we’ve got to make sure we do the job.”
Knights (probable): Haynes, B Dent, Minikin, Morland, Elliott, Presley, P Smith, Freer, Lee, Bell, Mallinder, E Smith, Aldous. Subs: from Brining, Carter, Joynt, Crane, B Hardcastle, Morrison, Craig.
Whitehaven (possible): Carr, Ainscough, McAvoy, Parker, Burns, Taylor, Southernwood, Culnean, Newton, Jackson, Doran, Mitchell, Marabe. Subs: Thorman, Crellin, Tarahoui, Robertson.
Referee: Tom Crashley (Wakefield).