JAMES Ford has challenged his York City Knights 'back-up' players to retain their shirts for the remainder of the Supers 8s.

Head coach Ford has a host of first team regulars unavailable for tomorrow's visit of Workington Town, with Ash Robson, Ed Smith, Jake Butler-Fleming, Dee Foggin-Johnston, Tommy Saxton and Zeus Silk all ruled out.

That is sure to test the strength of the Knights' squad, but the boss insists his fringe players will be more than equal to the task – especially after being made to wait patiently for their chance to impress.

“Obviously Ash Robson is still serving his suspension and Ed Smith is not available for us again this week," Ford said ahead of the encounter with the Cumbrians at Bootham Crescent.

"Jake Butler-Fleming, our Australian dual-reg from Hull KR, is struggling a bit with a knock and won’t be available, while Dee Foggin-Johnston has a small knock as well and hasn’t recovered in time for the game.

"Tommy Saxton, who was one of our better players against Keighley last weekend, has picked up a grade one hamstring injury, so he won’t be available this week either, and Zeus Silk also picked up a injury in training and he doesn't make the 19.

“So there are some good players missing from the 17 and 19 this week but, coming this far into a season, teams are always going to pick up injuries and suspensions."

Ahead of the Knights' third game of their Super 8s programme, Ford has urged the call-ups to take their chance against Workington – and keep their places for the rest of the campaign.

He added: "I always talk to the players about it being a squad competition and some of the blokes have found themselves a little hard-done-by not being in the team. Some of them have had to wait an awful long time since their last appearance for the club and it’s credit to them that they’ve been patient and worked hard. They’ve got their opportunity now.

"The standards are really high at this club – we expect them to perform and I’m sure they will.

“If these lads coming in perform to the standards that I know they can they will keep their places and the other lads will have to be patient. That’s the fairest way you can run a team. The lads who deserve the shirts get them, and the other ones have to take their chance when it comes."