BOSS Gary Thornton blasted the “worst performance since I’ve been at the club” after watching York City Knights’ 100 per cent start to the league campaign come to a crashing end.

Thornton lambasted a “disrespectful” display as the Knights fell 24-16 to expansion club Oxford. He bemoaned some of the officiating but admitted his men got all they deserved.

It was York’s first defeat of the Championship One campaign, seven days after their 31-28 Challenge Cup exit at Championship club Swinton, and the mood worsened further as player/assistant-coach James Ford joined the growing injury list after again breaking down, this time with a recurrence of an old groin problem.

Conversely, it was Oxford’s second win in their four league outings this term and only their seventh since debuting as a semi-pro club 13 months ago.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” said Thornton. “We got what we deserved out of the game. I’m lost for words really on how poor we were.

“It was the worst performance I’ve seen since I’ve been at the club.

“It was disrespectful from our boys.

“They thought they just had to turn up to get the win but it did not work that way.

“Tony Benson (Oxford boss) is a good coach and he has them well-drilled. They came with some desire and we had absolutely none.”

Thornton had made eight changes to the team edged out by Swinton, including bringing in full-back Ben Reynolds and prop Dan Fleming on dual-reg from Castleford, and, while some were enforced by injury, he had advocated the need for rotation.

Asked if those changes had had a detrimental effect, he said: “Ben Reynolds is familiar with our systems, and we got forced into playing Dan Fleming as we’d lost Austin Bell, Iain Morrison and Jake Joynt. I don’t think it weakened us.

“There were too many people off their game. We looked disjointed and we forced the issue when it wasn’t on. We never got into a rhythm or a pattern of play.

“The pace of the game didn’t help. It was so slow and he (the referee) was letting them lie on all the time. I thought that first half was very boring to watch because it was so slow.

“We weren’t allowed to play a fast game and because of that we lacked invention on the back of a very slow playthe- ball.”

Thornton had said last week that he hoped their first defeat of the year, the narrow cup loss, would not have a knockon effect on his team’s league form.

Asked if that had been the case, he said: “We thought we didn’t play particularly well last week, but not playing well and losing by only three points to a Championship side is something you can take. I don’t think it’s played a part on this game. We’d put it to bed and this was a fresh week.

But I’m very disappointed with the attitude and the way we approached this game. It was disrespectful.”

He added: “If we play like that at Gateshead on Friday we’re going to get beaten again. It was not good enough or acceptable. I think we’ve got the character to bounce back. There aren’t many positives to pick from this - the only way to get one would be to go to Gateshead and win.”