A STRING of senior players are missing as York City Knights begin a tough month of away trips with a lengthy journey to South Wales Scorpions this afternoon.
Head coach Gary Thornton is able to call on Brad Brennan for the Championship One trip after Batley Bulldogs agreed to extend the prop's loan deal at Huntington Stadium.
But elsewhere, he is shorn of a number of his experienced men ahead of a game he believes is bound to be tougher than the placings in the league table would suggest.
Jack Aldous, Benn Hardcastle and Ryan Mallinder all have personal commitments, Austin Bell has both a suspension and an ankle injury while a calf injury also sees Jonny Presley miss out on the 18-man squad.
Ben Reynolds is available from Castleford on dual-reg, while Nathan Harper is fit and Kris Brining is among the replacements in his first game back since breaking an ankle.
Despite fielding a team much changed from the side that persevered against Gateshead Thunder last time out, Thornton is confident he has enough quality at his disposal to fend off an improving Scorpions outfit that fell by two points to Oxford and have beaten London Skolars in recent games.
Whether they do so, however, depends, Thornton believes, on "turning up and performing to the best of our ability".
"They are improving and we can't go in there complacent and we can't take anything for granted," he said. "We are missing quite a few senior players. The game was initially on Sunday before being switched and Jack Aldous and Benn Hardcastle are among those who have got some commitments.
"These losses have thrown us a little bit, without a doubt. It provides opportunities, though. We are getting to the business end of the season and everyone wants to be in every week.
"If people are missing out then it is an opportunity for someone else. I am still confident we will have enough strength to go there and pick up three points.
"We have to make sure we turn up and play to the best of our ability."
With the Knights travelling to Maesteg, near Port Talbot, today, Thornton is expecting a five-and-a-half hour journey from York for a 2.30pm kick-off. But he does not expect the long coach journey to impact on the performance of his players.
He explained: "I don't want it to focus on what we do. We are good enough and strong enough to beat South Wales. We have to focus on the performance on the field.
"We've got a tough month coming up with four away games but we have known about this since the fixtures came out and we have already had the experience of going down to Gloucestershire.
"It will be a lot tougher against them than it was at home and we have to keep remembering what the job in hand is - going for the three points and coming back with them."
Like Thornton, South Wales Scorpions coach Mike Grady is battling against a mounting injury list.
Jordan Sheridan, Chris Leyhson, Neil Dallimore and Phil Carleton are all set to miss out, while Paul Emanuelli is rated only 50-50. Shaun Owens, though, could return after a fractured thumb.
Grady said: “Anyone can beat anyone in this league, but you’ve got to make sure you’re on your game. York are beatable. They’re good, but they’re not superhuman.
“Maybe we need to get a bit tougher mentally against the top teams. The quality’s there, we just need to be more consistent.”
Knights: Haynes, Dent, Ford, Craig, Saltonstall, Reynolds, Pat Smith, Brennan, Lee, Roach, Ed Smith, Backhouse, Pickets. Replacements: Carter, Brining, Morrison, Harper, Moreland.