YORK City Knights will be without three of their main men for Sunday's visit of Newcastle Thunder – but boss James Ford says they have plenty of other leaders to guide them through.

And one of those might be in-form half-back Connor Robinson, who looked set to be sidelined due to the head injury sustained at Keighley last week but who has been named in the 17 and is being given every chance to prove his fitness.

The in-form Knights – whose three notable wins since losing at Whitehaven have kept them on the coattails of Bradford Bulls at the top of Betfred League One – face another tricky test against a dangerous outfit, and they will do so without seasoned campaigners Andy Ellis, Graeme Horne and captain Tim Spears.

Sam Scott looks likely to be rotated to 18th man too, while loan prop Colton Roche is still out with a groin issue and – as reported by The Press – fellow front-rower Chris Siddons has now left the club.

However, Ford is able to call on a quartet of dual-reg Hull KR players this weekend, with Matty Marsh and packmen Josh Johnson and Jordan Walne joining Will Oakes in the York ranks.

And Robinson could well provide a boost too - and continue his stunning scoring streak that already stretches over a year.

League One's top points-scorer this term still has to pass the necessary head tests to show there is no concussion after being helped from the Cougar Park pitch last week by medics. Keighley's Brad Nicholson faces a lengthy ban having since been charged with contrary behaviour following the incident that led to his exit.

Ford said: “We're hoping he'll come through. We're confident he will. If he doesn't, we'll move things around. We've got more than enough ability to deal with it.

“We're missing Tim Spears, Andy Ellis, Jake Butler-Fleming (who is nearing full fitness), Adam Swift (long-term) and Graeme Horne. But it's still been hard to select the squad.

“We've still got outstanding leaders in there – like Adam Robinson, Connor Robinson, Ben Cockayne, Joe Batchelor, Harry Carter.

“It's a blow as the more experience, the more leaders, you have out there, the better. But it does not phase me – I have every faith in the 17 we'll have out.”

On former Super League star Horne's absence, he added: “He's got a minor back problem. We've got 12 rounds left and we don't want to run him into the ground. We've got Josh Johnson and Jordan Walne available and it makes sense to give him a breather.”

Assuming scrum-half Robinson passes fit, Marsh's inclusion at stand-off allows Cockayne to switch to centre, which in turn means Batchelor can revert to his preferred second-row spot.

Marsh will also go to five appearances so far, making him – like Oakes - eligible for the rest of the season under the dual-reg rules.

Ford is set to make five changes in all to the 17 that dispatched Keighley, with two coming at hooker, where loanee Dan Maskill gets a rare start in place of Ellis and Harry Carter is recalled in Will Jubb's interchange stead.

Maskill's inclusion is a bit of a surprise, but Ford said: “He's trained to a good level and he gets an opportunity and deserves one.”

On Carter, he added: “He had a positive performance against North Wales (a fortnight ago). He picked up a minor ankle problem and missed out last week.

“I have no issues with either of the nines. Whatever permutation will have deserved selection.”

Former Hull KR favourite Cockayne has played in every position across the back line this term, as well as at stand-off.

Said Ford: “Benny's been playing really well for us in the halves. I'm really pleased with how he's gone.

“I'm also really pleased he's willing to move around for us and solve a number of problems.

“He's played wing, half-back, full-back and I've planned also to use him as a stand-in hooker. He can do a good job in any position.

“I'm sure he'll be what Ben Cockayne always is – he'll play with desire, he'll be good out of dummy-half, he'll talk well and play well.”

It is hoped Ellis (calf), Horne (back) and Spears (hamstring) will all be available for the clash with Doncaster next week.

Knights (possible): Robson, Oakes, Cockayne, Hey, Mazive, Marsh, C Robinson, Hawksworth, Maskill, Dixon, Batchelor, Kelly, Porter. Subs: Carter, Johnson, Walne, A Robinson. Stand-by: Scott, Jubb.