GARY THORNTON has lauded Austin Bell’s impact at Huntington Stadium this season – while admitting the prop’s ongoing injury is of growing concern.

Bell, who joined York City Knights from Hull’s academy ahead of the 2013 campaign, ended that season out of the line-up, having played 16 times in his debut year at open-age level, mainly off the bench.

However, after bulking up in pre-season, he began this Championship One campaign as a front-line forward and impressed in five successive starting appearances – only to sit out the last two matches due to a knee problem, with no sign yet of an imminent return.

“Austin is my main concern,” said head coach Thornton of his injury list, now that Iain Morrison, Greg Minikin, James Ford and even Jason Golden – whose future was in doubt not too long ago because of his shoulder problem - are vying to make returns against London Skolars on Sunday.

“It (the injury) doesn’t seem to be making the progress we hoped and he needs a scan.

“I think we’ve missed him. We’ve missed his aggression and his go-forward. He’s been superb for us this year. With him and Jack Aldous starting, we get plenty of good go-forward.”

As for the 22-year-old’s apparent improvement this year, Thornton said: “He was in great form (before his injury). I knew it would take him a year or so but he’s delivered. He’s making good metres, his defence is aggressive.

"It always takes a year or so to get to grips with the physicality and pace of the game at our level.

“It possibly did take him by surprise when he came out of Super League academy rugby but I’m really pleased with his improvement. He’s improved his diet and lifestyle, and all that was showing on the field.

“We just need to get him back playing now.”