YORK City Knights player-assistant/coach James Ford reckons Challenge Cup opponents Swinton Lions are better than their current league placing suggests - regardless of what team they put out.
The Knights go to Leigh Sporting Village tomorrow (2pm) to take on the nomadic Mancunians in vying for a place in round five - and hopefully a money-spinning tie.
While Ford and co have won all four of their games this term and sit pretty in Championship One, the Lions have won only once in six Championship outings.
They are also likely to be without any of their dual-registered Warrington players tomorrow. However, the fact their line-up is partly unknown this side of the Pennines gives the home team some advantage, and veteran centre Ford does not expect them to be much weakened.
“We are really happy with how we have gone in the league so far,” said Ford. “But I would say Swinton are a much better team than the league table suggests.
“We’ve seen them on tape a few times and been to see them and they have a lot of energetic players and a good kicking game with the likes of (player-boss) Ian Watson and big, strong forwards, so it certainly won’t be easy."
Ford, though, reckons all the pressure will be on the hosts.
"They are expected to win," he said. "They have some big-name players and, despite their form in the league, I’m sure they fancy their chances.
“We’re a young team and we play good rugby but there is no pressure on us. The only expectation is what we set ourselves – playing to the standards we have set and to improve every week.
“We had a lot of players come through the youth system so there is a lot of solidarity with them and we brought some established names in who have brought a lot of positivity to the club.
“The league is the priority, but the Challenge Cup is the Challenge Cup. Everyone wants to play in the Challenge Cup as a boy and hopefully we’ll have Lady Luck on our side, cause an upset, and perhaps draw a Super League side.”
* FIT-AGAIN Ben Crane returns to action today as the Knights reserves go to Oldham (2pm).
The forward suffered ankle ligament damage in the Challenge Cup third-round win over Whitehaven but is back sooner than expected.
Ryan Backhouse will also don the York shirt again today. The former Castleford academy loose-forward left on the eve of the season but he aborted his move to Australia and came back to both England and the Knights.
Mick Ramsden’s young reserves team will be looking to continue their winning start to the year – which continued with a surprise XX-XX victory at Championship big-guns Leigh last time out – but they will not be boosted by any Cas dual-reg players this time.
The 17-man party has limited first-team experience, and again includes Reece Blake, the New Earswick ARLC teenager who was called up from the new development squad for the Leigh game.
Knights reserves: from L Hardcastle, A Dent, Swift, Nathaniel, Tomlinson, Talbot, Green, Harper, Carter, Iley, Crane, Craig, Backhouse, Batty, Stubbs, Parker, Blake.