YORK City Knights boss James Ford suggested his side’s defeat at Whitehaven will have little bearing on the impending League One play-off semi-final rematch between the sides.

Two tries in the last 14 minutes, the second on the back of a controversial penalty, saw the hosts grab a 26-16 victory at the end of a game which swung both ways in heavy conditions.

Ford laughed off that refereeing decision given little rested on this match but he slated Carl Forster’s men for “milking penalties”.

However, he also praised their efforts to overcome fatigue having travelled to new champions Toronto the previous weekend - suggesting he expects a better display from them in the play-offs.

Additionally, with several of his own front-line players sitting out this match, he suggested the Knights will be much-improved too.

The teams look sure to meet back at The Recre in the promotion semi-finals on September 24, with Haven sitting third in the table and York fourth.

“I thought everyone involved had a real good go and tried to make the game good value,” he said. “The conditions were horrendous.

“Credit to Whitehaven. Their energy levels were down but they found a way to win the game.

“We’ve got eight or nine who will be in contention for the semi-final.

“They were two equal teams and both worked hard. Both made good contacts and showed bravery.

“The game swung on the holding-down penalty when it clearly should have been a penalty to us for their player moving off the mark.

“I can laugh a bit because the game probably doesn’t mean that much in the long run, but the referee got that wrong. He could do with a bit of help from the assistants – they could surely see what’s happened.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Whitehaven. To come back from Toronto and beat us is a fair effort.”

He added of Wakefield referee Tom Crashley: “If you ask a player to make 100 decisions, he’s going to make some wrong calls. Same with coaches.

“Whitehaven have consistently challenged Tom, trying to milk penalties, and he’s done alright. He’s got one or two wrong, though, and unfortunately for us it’s had a massive impact on the outcome of the game.

“I’m certainly not blaming the officials for the result, though. I’m not blaming Whitehaven - I’m not blaming anyone. The three parties worked hard to make the game a decent spectacle.

“I thought the officials tried hard to let the game flow. It was difficult for Tom because Whitehaven were begging for penalties all game and up until the last 10 minutes I thought he had a decent game.”

Asked if he had learnt more lessons about Haven ahead of the rematch, Ford said not.

“Whitehaven are big and go forward well. They try to grind out wins and they did that here,” he reasoned.

“We need to be a bit tidier though as that’s the worst I’ve seen a team milk penalties out of the officials.

“It was disappointing – they’re a good team and they don’t need to do that.”

There remains a very slight chance that York will end up going to Barrow rather than Whitehaven in the semi-finals.

Asked which he’d prefer, Ford said: “It makes no difference. They’re two good teams and it’ll be a tough, physical, mental battle. We’re just looking forward to being in the semi-finals again.”

To add to the absentee list, the Knights were without in-form playmaker Liam Harris (illness) and Jordon Cox (family commitments) in Cumbria, but both are expected to be available for the home game with Newcastle next week – the last of the Super 8s before the semi-finals.

Asked if there were any new injuries, Ford said: “There are bumps and bruises – it was a physical game in tough conditions.

“But I’m sure they’ll be in contention alongside the five, six, seven players who weren’t here but will be ready to be considered for selection.

“It’s a good situation to be in at this time of the year.”