Brad Brennan in for Knights as irked Benn is axed
Updated 11:16am Saturday 17th May 2014 in Sport
YORK City Knights have brought big Brad Brennan in on loan from Batley and he goes straight into the side for tomorrow's Championship One match of the day at title rivals Oldham.
Head coach Gary Thornton has also wrung the changes at half-back for a game which will have a big bearing at the top of the table - with Benn Hardcastle being particularly unhappy to be dropped, according to The Press sources.
The Knights were forced into seeking an emergency loan after injury to Nathan Freer and Jack Aldous, added to the continued absence of Iain Morrison and Austin Bell, left boss Gary Thornton with only four fully fit props, the quartet all being rookies with just 19 first-grade appearances between them.
Aldous may yet play, having rested a hamstring tweak all week, while Bell has an outside chance of overcoming his knee injury after four games out, but Thornton was obviously keen to add to his front-row force.
Brennan, a former Warrington academy team-mate of James Saltonstall, was made available at late notice yesterday after Batley themselves took Keegan Hirst back on loan from Featherstone yesterday. The 20-year-old Brennan spent last year on loan at Barrow and has played five games in the Championship this year for the Bulldogs.
Thornton said: "Batley's loan move for Keegan Hirst went through so we managed to get Brad in. He gives us a bit of size - he's a big thing at 6ft 2in and 16 or 17 stone. It's possibly what we've been missing anyway. He gives us good cover while we're in the state we're in. He certainly caused us some problems when he played for Barrow against us last year.
"Austin is improving all the time but this weekend might come too soon for him. Jack Aldous could be okay, but we don't want to go with many, if any, 50-50s."
Brennan will start on the bench alongside recalled prop Nathan Harper, with Jack Pickles and Aldous - if passed fit - in the 13.
Meanwhile, Pat Smith, whose introduction at stand-off last week helped York come from behind to beat Hemel, will form a new half-back partnership with Ben Reynolds, who shifts up from full-back with James Haynes fit to retake his number one shirt.
Jonny Presley could start as replacement hooker, or make way altogether with Jack Iley pushing for a recall, while Hardcastle has been omitted entirely.
"He's very disappointed," said Thornton of the former Gateshead playmaker, refusing to expand further.
"With Kriss Brining and Harry Carter out injured, we've been trying to get the reserve hooker spot sorted out and Pat Smith's done that for us. But before we lost Kriss and Harry, Pat was at six (stand-off) and was playing well and, when he went in there last week, he sparked us up. We had looked bereft of ideas.
"I just don't think Benn was at his best last week.
"Ben Reynolds played well at full-back so deserved to stay in the team and can be just as good at half-back."
Rookie winger Adam Dent is sidelined by a shoulder injury so Saltonstall - who played on the wing for Italy in their historic win over England last autumn - switches from centre, with James Ford going back into the starting line-up.
Thornton says his side need to play with the same intensity that brought victory at title favourites Hunslet early in the season, if they are to rediscover top form and get maximum points from Whitebank.
"It's difficult to know what to expect against an expansion club but you know what t expect from Oldham," he said. "They're a big club in this division. It will be tough.
"Your mindset is a bit different when you go into a game like this. Our mindset against Hunslet was excellent and I'm expecting the same attitude and approach."
Knights (probable): J Haynes, Saltonstall, Ford, Minikin, B Dent, P Smith, Reynolds, Aldous, Lee, Pickles, E Smith, Mallinder, Paterson. Subs: from Presley, Iley, Brennan, Harper, Backhouse.
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