YORK City Knights coach Mick Cook remained confident and upbeat ahead of Monday's big league opener, despite last night's poor loss at Hunslet.

The under-par Knights fell 18-12 at South Leeds Stadium in their last Northern Rail Cup group match before the LHF National League Two campaign kicks off at home to in-form Swinton Lions.

However, Cook reckoned last night's encounter - effectively a nothing game as neither team could progress - will have no bearing on Monday or on what is to come in the league.

"We went there and under-performed and probably got what we deserved from it, but that is gone now," he said.

"The main competition starts on Monday and it will be business back on.

"We've got a massive test but we'll have a lot of fresh players to go in there. We left a few players out last night to keep them fresh and we'll now focus on the Swinton game."

Cook will assess his troops tomorrow though is resigned to being without goalkicker Chris Ross, who pulled a hamstring and could be out for some time, while trialist full-back Lee Lingard is unlikely to be in the running having pulled out last night due to a knee injury suffered in training.

However, key centre Dan Potter and second-row Ian Kirke are likely to be available after injury and could come in along with the several players rested last night.

"We will need to improve on last night to get anything on Monday but I'm still confident," added Cook.

As for last night's show, he said that while his team was much-changed, their preparation was good and they had looked cohesive in training.

"I thought the team was good enough to win, but it was a disappointing way to finish the competition," he said.

"We were poor with the ball and forced ourselves to defend for long periods. We failed to build any pressure and our kicking game was ordinary again. We did not hold the ball and a few defensive lapses cost us, though they didn't score that much given the amount of defending we had to do.

"There were some weird decisions at times from the referee but you have to ride along with those and on the whole it was a bit loose with a lot of room for improvement.

"We just lacked any real ball control and drifted away from what we were supposed to do. There was plenty of effort but it was perhaps mis-directed."

Updated: 09:25 Saturday, March 26, 2005