JAMES FORD hailed a “fantastic achievement” after his York City Knights side banked a play-off place in Kingstone Press League One thanks to their thrilling 21-21 comeback draw with Doncaster at Bootham Crescent.

In a nerve-wracking finale, the Knights, having fallen 21-14 down just after the hour mark, levelled the scores with 90 seconds left thanks to Connor Robinson’s drop goal, and then escaped with a point when, on the final hooter, Jack Miller’s penalty for the visitors hit a post and went to safety.

The draw, allied to Keighley’s defeat at Newcastle, means the Minster city side are now sure of a top-five spot with two games to go.

“I think it’s a fantastic achievement, especially considering where we started in December,” said head coach Ford, referring to the crisis at the end of last season which nearly saw the club fold prior to the takeover.

“We’ve ticked off a few objectives and we’ve slowly improved through the year.

“The plaudits for that improvement and for us making the five need to go to the players.

“They’ve worked hard and they’ve had to cop some stuff in reviews and in training but they’ve always had a great attitude and always focused on improving.

“There are four weeks left and we’re going to continue working and continue learning and we’re going to give it our very best.”

Asked who he would prefer to face away in the play-off semi-finals – it will be either Barrow or Whitehaven assuming champions elect Toronto don’t blow the title – Ford said: “I don’t care – either will be difficult.”

Ford was quick to laud man-of-the-match Liam Harris for his virtuoso show – and two crucial solo tries – at full-back, but he also praised the pack effort against a notable forward line.

“Liam’s quick, strong, has good footwork and makes good decisions. He’s had another big game for us.

“The supporters love him and the players love him out there.

“He’s certainly got a big future in the game as long as he keeps his head down and keeps working hard.

“There have been plenty of players who have got to similar levels but then forgotten what’s got them there. I’m keen to help Liam continue his development – if he does that he will be one hell of a player.”

York’s forwards faced ex-Knight Russ Spiers and former Super League forward Iafeta Paleaaesina, and Ford explained he tweaked tactics to counter their threat.

Said Ford: “Russ and Iafeta are really powerful players but they are not renowned for playing big minutes. We wanted them to do doubles and trebles (consecutive tackles) – we wanted to take some energy away from those blokes as we knew they were a handful.

“They (the Knights’ pack) worked really hard. Their mental strength was tested. Adam Robinson (prop) came off (injured) after a minute and he’s a massive player for us, and Jordan Cox’s minutes were a lot shorter due to illness.

“I’m really proud of the grit and desire they’ve got. They had to work overtime against a really good pack.”

On the display as a whole, Ford added: “It was exciting for the supporters but there will be a lot to review from both teams’ performances.

“I thought we were a bit off in terms of the technical side of the game, but that’s maybe to be expected having had a week off.

“Our resilience was tested – we had 15 and a half players for almost a full game against a good team, and that takes some doing.

“No team is ever going to come out and get everything right skill-wise or technically. But if you’ve got a backbone like we have, it makes you a really hard team to beat even on an off-day, and that was very evident.”