YORK CITY Knights chief Gary Thornton says his side are not yet the finished article ahead of their top-of-the-table Kingstone Press Championship One tussle with Oldham at Huntington Stadium tomorrow - but he believes they are getting close.
The head coach indicated he was likely to name the same 17 that crushed Oxford 58-16 last week - meaning Jonny Presley and Harry Carter may need to continue to be patient.
Having broken the season down into smaller chunks, the latest being York's four-game winning streak on the road over the last month, Thornton believes the season is now entering its crucial stage and he is delighted with how his squad are shaping up.
"It's really difficult to make any changes," Thornton said of his team selection. "Pat Smith, James Haynes and Ben Reynolds are all in terrific form and I can't justify making too many changes.
"Hitting form at the right time is huge going into the play-offs. What has pleased me most has been the attitude of the players. They have been exceptional.
"They have improved and done whatever we have asked of them and there is more improvement in there. We are not the finished article. We are getting there.
"Winning breeds confidence, especially when you are winning games comfortably. We have to be mindful of the challenge ahead. We know we face a stern test against Oldham.
"I know the intensity of the game and the tempo will be much quicker than it was over the last four games. We are prepared for that."
The winners of Sunday's showdown will be in pole position to finish top of the league - the Knights are currently three points clear of Oldham at the summit - and, while York's promotion ambitions will ultimately depend upon winning a Grand Final, Thornton has left his squad in no doubt as to his aims for the rest of the regular campaign.
He added: "We want to finish top of the league. There is no doubt about that. That is what we are setting out to do and we will be pushing hard to win the division.
"This game is huge in that target. We are first and second in the league and, for whoever wins, there is always that psychological advantage going into the play-offs.
"You've got to balance that against complacency. From a psychological point of view, though, we are quite close so we all want to try and win this league.
"I have got faith in the players. I believe that on our day we are the best team in the division. We have to prove it and one way to do that is to get one over on Oldham.
"We have been breaking the season down into small chunks. One of those was the four away games. We set our stall out to go away from home and win them all. We did that but this new chunk is even tougher - with Oldham, Gloucester, Hunslet and Gateshead to come.
"These are games that will have a massive bearing on the league and this is the next one. Oldham is a huge game and one that will influence how the table ends up.
"I am really excited about the game. These are two teams in great form. We have both scored a lot of points over the last few weeks. They had a terrific game at Gloucester and you can only beat what's in front of you.
"They have been to Gateshead and beaten them and they are a driven team. They beat Oxford away and have got some very good players. They have a huge pack of forwards - the biggest in the league - and they have some crafty hookers and backs. It is going to be a proper, tight game.
"We are very confident. We are at home. We are playing well and we have to carry out our game plan like we have done."
For the Knights, Austin Bell remains on the recovery trail while prop Iain Morrison has recently had surgery to remove an abscess from a muscle in his bicep. Brad Brennan finishes his suspension following the Oldham game.
Danny Whitmore is available for Oldham, who will give Kenny Hughes as long as possible to prove his fitness after he suffered an ankle injury last week.
Oldham were 46-6 winners over Gloucestershire All Golds last week. Coach Scott Naylor said: “We need to take that form into our next three games and see where we are after that.”
Knights: from Haynes, B Dent, Ford, Day, Saltonstall, Reynolds, P Smith, Roche, Lee, Aldous, Mallinder, E Smith, Pickets, Brining, Paterson, Backhouse, Leary, Presley, Carter, Bell.
* A TOUCH rugby tournament will be held as the pre-match entertainment tomorrow.
From noon several teams will be involved, including Yorkshire Thorns and Riccall Raiders, and a team also featuring former Knights coach Mick Cook. The club's Bar 13 will be open from 12.30pm.