YORK City Knights boss James Ford was quick to hail his troops’ togetherness yet again after they completed a stunning double over Leigh Centurions to leapfrog them into third place in the Betfred Championship.

The Knights came from 18-8 behind to win 24-23 at Leigh Sports Village, to follow on from their similarly nail-biting 9-8 victory at Bootham Crescent earlier in the season.

It was the first time in living memory that the Minster city outfit had done the double over the former Super League club, and, with one game to go, it gave them a chance to finish the regular season second in the table - further bolstering confidence ahead of the upcoming play-offs for a place in the top flight.

“Everybody can be tough when they’re on top, but when you’re on the back foot and other sides are firing into you, that’s a test of your character and your resolve,” said Ford, referring to the times Leigh looked to be getting on top.

“We’ve got blokes who don’t shy away from it and stick to systems and keep working hard under pressure, under physical pressure as well as mental pressure. They deal with it admirably.

“I’m really proud of them as a group, and we’re up to third place now with a game to go. It’s a big game against Halifax next week and hopefully we’ll be good enough to beat them and, if Featherstone can do us a favour against Toulouse, we’ll be up to second.”

Both York and Leigh had already secured top-five places and Ford conceded they would need to find improvements in performance for the play-offs, with both sides making more errors than they would have liked, albeit on a day of showers.

“I’m assuming this field is partially synthetic grass and sometimes because there’s no actual dirt on the ball it can make it quite greasy,” he reasoned.

“When I was here with England Academy (as assistant coach) against the Australian Schoolboys, there were similar conditions and both sides made a few errors in that game. You’ve just got to adjust your play.

“It was a little bit stop-start at times and you could probably tell both sides had had a week off. But I was really pleased with the togetherness and the character that we showed.

“Both sides will endeavour to be better. Just because we’re at the end of the season now our philosophy doesn’t change. We’ll look at it on Tuesday and we’ll plan our training around the things we could have done better and we’ll aim to be better than what we delivered this time.”

He continued: “I’m delighted to come to Leigh and get the points. I’d spoken all week about how good Leigh were and what a great job the coaches have done.

“I thought we defended really well. We probably could have reacted a bit better to that kick (for Leigh’s first try of the second half), and we conceded a bit of a soft barge-over. But I thought we handled their shifts pretty well and much of what we did was pretty good so I was pleased with that side of our game.

“We could have been better coming out of yardage – Leigh did to us what we do to other sides in that they pinned us in there and were really aggressive. Parts of our attacking play were a little bit disjointed maybe and we made a few too many errors, which meant we had to be incredibly resilient. We had to work hard for each other and stay strong mentally.

“We lost a couple of players to injury and it all really tested our togetherness and our character but yet again I’m so proud of that side of our team.”

Ford had praise for the four players brought back into the side – Matt Chilton, Jack Blagbrough, Mike Kelly and Brad Hey, the latter setting up the decisive score late on.

Added Ford: “Brad came up with the match-winning play, didn’t he. He picked up a loose ball and with great footwork went through and then there was some great composure to put Liam Harris in under the posts – and what a piece of footwork that was from Liam as well.”

Hooker Kriss Brining jarred a knee so the injury will be assessed in the week, but Ford hoped he, as well as Liam Salter, Perry Whiteley, Ronan Dixon and Jack Teanby, who were all sidelined for this game, will be available next Sunday.