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Ruthless Knights boss issues ‘axe’ warning to squad
CHRIS THORMAN reckons dropping two players to the reserves last night sends out a message that substandard performances were unacceptable at Huntington Stadium.
Thorman’s York City Knights side entertain Dewsbury Rams tonight (8pm) in a Co-operative Championship game which the Geordie says they can win if they play anywhere near their potential.
And he hopes that cracking the whip, now the recruitment of Kiwi forward Dario Esposito brings more competition for places, will garner a positive response and, in turn, victory over Warren Jowitt’s men.
“Performances were a bit below-par against Sheffield. It’s important to those boys to play well and earn a spot in the squad,” said Thorman, who didn’t actually name names but was almost certainly talking about Rhys Clarke and Ed Smith, whose underperforming at the Don Valley last Friday saw them named in last night’s second-string match at Oldham.
“We (the coaching team) felt it necessary that we did this.
“It sends a message as well really.
“The tries we conceded were generally down to one-on-one misses and that’s something we need to fix up.
“If we can fix it up, it will go a long way to changing the performances of the team.”
Cynics might suggest Thorman could have swung the axe more often before now given the Knights have won just once in 11 league outings this year.
The timing is also awkward, given the reserves match was just 24 hours before tonight’s game – meaning either Clarke or Smith, or other first-team hopefuls Tom Bush, Dave Sutton and Adam Howard, would have to play twice in quick succession if given a first-team shirt.
But Thorman said: “It’s the first time they’ve had to do that all year. It’s not ideal but lots of things we’ve had to do haven’t been ideal. When you play poorly you expect to be made aware of it.”
Michael Knowles and Menzie Yere scored five of Sheffield’s eight tries after terrorising York’s right-side defence featuring Clarke and then Smith. Thorman said the duo’s youthfulness – Smith is 19 and Clarke 21 – was no mitigation.
“I don’t care how young you are. We set our standards and we weren’t up to it,” he said. “They know that, they’ve watched the video.”
Esposito’s arrival from Australia on Wednesday morning has given Thorman more scope to make changes – assuming the Kiwi is fresh enough to go straight in for his debut, a decision which will be taken today.
Thorman, impressed by his first sight of the 23-year-old, said: “He was obviously tired after the long flight but he’s been resting up so we’ll see.
“He seems focused and that he’s not here for a vacation. He’s a big thing as well, and let’s hope he’s aggressive to boot.
“The fact he’s brought his girlfriend suggests he’s not here for a holiday but to fit in, experience a new culture and hopefully play well for York City Knights.”
Dewsbury are only one place but ten points above second- bottom York, and Thorman said: “It’s a game which, if we perform well, we can win. If we play near to our potential, we can win.”
Rams boss Jowitt, who will make a late check on hooker Liam Hood after his knock playing 9s rugby in midweek, was also expectant. He said: “The good thing that came out of last week’s (34-24) loss against Halifax was a huge amount of confidence.
“The players have realised they can mix it and deal with the top teams. If we can keep that form, there are more than enough points to get us into the top six.”
Ex-Knights Ryan Esders, Austin Buchanan, Ben Jones and Rob Spicer are set to feature.
Turnstiles open at 6.30pm though ticket holders can access Bar 13 from 5.30pm via main reception.
York primary schools will play a mixed tag rugby tournament, sponsored by the Park Inn Radission, as a curtain-raiser. Under-16s, whether playing or not in the tag rugby, will get free admission to tonight’s game.
The Knights’ club shop has a mid-season sale on.
Knights: from Tansey, Pryce, Garside, Ford, Elliott, Thorman, Nicklas, Sullivan, Lee, Aldous, Davies, Clarke, King, Turner, Green, Freer, Smith, Esposito, Bush, Sutton, Howard.
Dewsbury (possible): Craven, Williams, Esders, Faal, Buchanan, Walker, Jones, Hood, Crossley, Spicer, Tonks, Singleton. Subs: Scott, Cosgrove, Harris, Flanagan.
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow (St Helens).
• Former Knights winger Lee Mapals has been linked with a return to Championships rugby league with Hunslet Hawks.