YORK City Knights boss James Ford hailed the character throughout his squad after his depleted team repelled a barrage of pressure to ultimately beat Newcastle Thunder 24-6.

Ford admitted the final score far from reflected the game, in which the Knights – without skipper Tim Spears and fellow generals Andy Ellis, Graeme Horne and Connor Robinson - had to hold onto a 10-6 lead for most of the second half before breaking out and sealing the spoils.

The result keeps York just two points behind Bradford Bulls at the top of Betfred League One, while one other result went their way – Oldham losing 16-14 to Workington, with Hunslet going above them into third after scraping a last-gasp 19-18 win at North Wales Crusaders.

Asked what had won York the game at Bootham Crescent, Ford said: “Character.

"We had a number of senior blokes missing who we look to at times like that to manage a game and change how we play in certain scenarios, and they weren’t there.

“It was up to some younger fellas, less experienced fellas, and that will see them in good stead for their careers because they’ve been in a really tight contest and they’ve managed to see it through. They know how to win a tight game and how to out-grind a team.

“Our ability to defend our goal-line for 20 minutes in the second half in 25-26 degrees heat, and with a man down sin-binned – that takes some guts.

“I think we’re a real gutsy team. We weren’t at our best. We gifted Newcastle too much possession and territory.

“We were pushing it a little too much in good ball and we were a bit slack in our discipline, and it really tested our desire to work for one another.

“But what I’ve got here (at York) is 25-26 blokes who will never give in and are desperate to do well for each other and this club.”

He added: “They tested us, obviously with Lewis Young’s pace and Adam Brook, who had a couple of darts at us. But we pride ourselves on our togetherness, solidarity and work ethic.

“We needed that with this heat and the amount of possession and territory we gave Newcastle. But, as I said, that will see these players on the field move up a level.

“We talk about how young players get experience – well, that’s it. They’re under the pump and they’ve managed it themselves, and I’m really proud of them.”

That praise extended, too, to the four dual-reg Hull KR players in York shirts - Matty Marsh, Jordan Walne, Will Oakes and Josh Johnson.

“We needed them this week,” he said. “With Spearsy, Ellis, Jake Butler-Fleming, Graeme Horne, Connor all not available – that’s a big section of anybody’s salary cap, and of experience and quality in the squad.

“Marshy, Walney, JJ, Oakesy came in and played really well.

“I think they enjoy it and they get on well with the boys.

“We see it when they’re here that they’re us, they’re part of us, and the relationship (with Hull KR) goes from strength to strength at the minute.”

Ford also had praise for Newcastle – not least the York duo in their ranks, Tyler Craig and try-scorer Ben Dent.

“I thought they were tremendous,” he said of Thunder. “They ran hard and tackled hard. They’ve got some individual threats across the field who were really hard to handle.

“Obviously we’d identified Lewis Young before the game but some of the stuff he does – well, you can’t deal with it, can you. (He set up) an absolutely world-class try (for Dent), beating eight nine defenders coming across the field. It was superb.

“Generally I can’t speak highly enough of Newcastle. They’ve come on in leaps and bounds under Jason (Payne, head coach). The scoreboard doesn’t reflect their efforts.”

He added: “I was impressed with their guts and desire to work hard and how hard they ran.

“Tyler was superb – he looked really dangerous – and Denty was solid. The middle got off their line and belted us.

“We’d identified some areas where we thought Newcastle would be not as strong – but they were great.”