Debutants thrown in as York City Knights seek a boost

York Press: On-loan Warrington ace James Saltonstall could be one of three York City Knights debutants at Gateshead On-loan Warrington ace James Saltonstall could be one of three York City Knights debutants at Gateshead

GARY THORNTON insists his York City Knights side will put to bed last Sunday's nightmare as they look to bounce back to winning form tonight.

The Knights go to Gateshead Thunder (7.30pm) for their second Championship One assignment in five days and, according to head coach Thornton, the harder of the two.

That might not bode well given his troops were turned over 24-16 at home by minnows Oxford on Sunday, but he is confident they can regain the form that previously brought three wins out of three in the league. He has also tempered his criticism of the performance last week, saying his team could and should have won despite not playing well.

"It's very important we bounce back quickly," said Thornton, who is again poised to make several changes to his line-up, including handing debuts to new loan signing James Saltonstall, prop Nathan Harper and, potentially, Ryan Backhouse.

"I've watched last week's game over and over and, looking at it, we could have been 24 points up before Oxford got going.

"Lee Paterson's try was definitely not off-side - I've no idea why the touch judge has to get involved - and before that there was Ben Dent's superb break down the left wing and Ed Smith only has to pick the ball up to score.

"Benn Hardcastle broke through and we bombed a two-on-one situation, and there was James Ford's chance.

"It was frustrating. We could have blown them out of the water before they got going but the more chances we missed the more it fuelled them. If we take those chances, it's a very different game and we're all smiles still.

"They had five chances all game and took all five - and I still think for one they bounced the ball down and for the last one Pat Smith had the ball stripped two-on-one when it should have been a penalty to us.

"As poorly as we played, we could have won quite easily. We have to put that to one side, now, and get going again."

Warrington starlet Saltonstall, a non-playing member of Italy's World Cup squad, who played on the wing when the Azzurri memorably beat England in a tournament warm-up match, will start tonight at centre in place of the crocked Ford.

James Morland returns to the other centre berth in place of Josh Nathaniel, with first-choice Greg Minikin still sidelined by his hamstring problem.

Castleford have withdrawn all dual-registration players for the busy Easter weekend, so Harper comes in for Dan Fleming at prop, while James Haynes as expected returns at full-back for Ben Reynolds.

Jake Joynt is fit again so replaces Ben Crane in the pack, and George Elliott comes back onto the wing, Luke Hardcastle omitted.

Former Cas youngster Backhouse is also included in a 19-man squad after impressing for the reserves, as is Jack Pickles, after tests showed he does not have a hernia.

Of former Leeds, Wakefield and Castleford youth player Harper, who signed for York from Featherstone in the autumn only to be set back by illness in pre-season, Thornton said: "He's had a few games in the reserves now and he was excellent for them against the RAF last week.

"When we needed people to step up, when we went behind, he was the one to do that. He's a big thing and he takes some handling. It's now about the amount of effective minutes we get from him, but he's a handful when he wants to be."

It is hoped Iain Morrison (knee), Austin Bell (knee) and Ford (groin) will not be sidelined for too long. Jason Golden (shoulder), Kriss Brining (ankle) and Sam Orange (knee) are not expected back soon.

Knights (probable): Haynes, Elliott, Saltonstall, Morland, B Dent, B Hardcastle, Presley, Aldous, Lee, Joynt, Mallinder, E Smith, Paterson. Subs: from P Smith, Freer, Harper, Iley, Backhouse, Pickles.

Gateshead: from Greg Eden, Jacob Blades, Joe Brown, Chris Heil, Tom Capper, Matty Beharrell, Carl Puckering, Tom Lynch, Ricky Hough, Lee Fewlass, Sonny Esslemont, Jason Payne, Aaron Ollett, Sam Bowering, Josh Stoker, Alex Ruff, Conor Condron, Callum Cockburn, Paul Stamp, Rhys Clarke, Matty Barron.

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