YORK City Knights will meet new opponents next season whether or not they win promotion to National League One.

It was confirmed at the official launch of the LHF Healthplan National League this week that a new team will be recruited to National League Two next year to take the numbers in this division up to 12 for the 2006 season.

No details of this new club have been announced, but it is thought that a team from Wales and National League Three amateurs Coventry are in the running.

The additional team for NL2 comes as a knock-on effect of the introduction next season of French club UTC to Super League.

Two teams will be relegated from Super League to accommodate UTC and the promotion of the NL1 champions.

Two teams will also go down from NL1 to NL2 (and a third into the NL2 play-offs) in order to keep the number of clubs in NL1 at ten.

That will mean there will be 11 teams in NL2, and to keep an even number in the division, this new club will be added.

The rationale for having ten clubs in NL1 and 12 in NL2 - rather than 11 in each - is based on the notion that there will be more "intensely competitive" fixtures in NL1 and that the NL1 clubs are expected to go further in the cup competitions than their NL2 counterparts thus requiring more flexibility as far as league fixtures are concerned.

THE league launch also revealed details of Sportsmatch funding for rugby league development thanks to LHF's sponsorship.

The new funds will help some clubs get development programmes up and running and augment those already in effect, including the Knights' own highly-rated development scheme headed by chief development officer Jason Ramshaw.

TALKING of the LHF National League launch, it proved an excellent event - especially for Knights development officer Ramshaw.

Staged by sponsors LHF Healthplan and the Rugby Football League, it was held at Wetherby Racecourse and saw representatives of National League clubs and members of the media invited for not only the launch but also a day's National Hunt racing.

Ramshaw was the Knights' representative there and, despite a poor start to his afternoon's betting, he was quids in thanks to two winners late on.

MICHAEL Shenton's try for Castleford against the Knights last week means the winger is the only player to have touched down in all six of his club's Northern Rail and Powergen Challenge Cup matches this season.

Meanwhile, Batley kicking king Barry Eaton's incredible scoring run finally came to a close in his side's 54-0 loss at Doncaster, the end being engineered by former Yorkie St John Ellis, the Dragons coach.

Eaton had previously scored in every match for the Bulldogs since joining them from Widnes for the start of the 2003 season. The scrum-half's incredible run comprised 70 consecutive matches and brought him 659 points from ten tries and 311 goals, including three drop goals.

Ex-Knights Aaron Wood, Dale Cardoza and Craig Farrell all played for the Dragons in the record-ending match, with Wood and Cardoza (2) scoring tries.

Eaton is the only player to thrice go through a season scoring in every one of his club's matches, for Dewsbury in 1999-00 and for Batley in the last two seasons.

The only other player to achieve the feat in successive seasons was David Watkins for Salford in 1972-73 and 1973-74 when he set the world record of scoring in 92 successive club matches.

Crowds cheer for York

IT was quite interesting to note that last Sunday's match against Castleford drew a bumper crowd of 2,340 - the Knights' second-biggest ever - three years to the day since York Wasps announced they were folding following pitiful attendances.

That crowd was exactly 2,060 higher than the home crowd for the Wasps' last home match, which gives some indication of how far the new club has come, even given the fact the respective opponents were big-guns Cas and the now departed Chorley Lynx.

Tomorrow, meanwhile, is the third anniversary of the Wasps' resignation from the Rugby Football League being officially accepted.

The slow transition to the Knights was already underway by this stage, however, with the now-famous crisis meeting staged by fans on March 24, 2002 having set the ball rolling towards the vibrant club we have today.

FIRST York bus company will be running free buses as normal to the Swinton Lions game on Bank Holiday Monday. Pick-up points and times are as usual.

THE Knights' offices will be closed until 11am to 2.30pm on Monday before the Swinton game.

Get ready to go to the polls

DON'T forget to vote for your Knights Player of the Month for March after Monday's game against Swinton.

These votes exclusively decide who wins the Evening Press-sponsored award, while everyone who votes gets the chance to win two tickets to a Knights home match as well as the opportunity to present the winning player with his award on the Huntington Stadium pitchside.

This system replaces last year's weekly man of the match vote.

Votes are cast by email to peter.martini@ycp.co.uk or on a postcard to Sportsdesk, Evening Press, 76-86 Walm-gate, York Y01 9YN. Send your vote in by noon next Thursday, and include your full name, address and daytime contact number. Which-ever player tops the poll wins the Player of the Month award and also collects three Player of the Year points.

PROP Adam Sullivan rose up the Evening Press/Collier Plant Hire Player of the Year table thanks to his man of the match award against Castleford last week.

Sullivan picked up his second three-point haul, while Simon Friend made his mark in his first game back at the club by being deemed the Knights' second-best player in the day. John Smith maintained his early season form with the remainder.

In the previous week against Elland, the points went to man of the match Matt Blaymire (3), Calvin Watson (2), who made several telling breaks, and Peter Fox (1) for his two tries including a breathtaking opener which dented Elland's hopes right at the start.

Standings: Smith 9pts, Blaymire 6, Sullivan 6, Paterson 3, Rhodes 3, Ross 3, Buckenham 2, Friend 2, Watson 2, Law 1, Liddell 1, Fox 1.

Updated: 09:42 Friday, March 25, 2005