HEAD coach James Ford set out the standards York City Knights will aim to hit in future seasons after their startling 2019 campaign finally came to an end.

The Knights, having beaten the odds to finish third in the Betfred Championship standings, were knocked out of the promotion play-offs after a 30-4 defeat to old rivals Featherstone Rovers in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Saturday.

Rovers now go to Toulouse next weekend for the right to meet heavy favourites Toronto in the Grand Final, with a Super League spot the prize.

For York, Ford not so much reflected on a remarkable season as outlined a desire to be even stronger promotion candidates in future.

“I thought Featherstone shaded us, from minute one to minute 80,” he said.

“The result got away from us at the end when we went down to 12. I thought we did a good job of hanging in there.

“In the 10-minute period after half-time I thought Fev’s physicality was really highlighted. They’ve got a number of full-time players in there.

“They’re the standards we need to get to if we are to beat these sides consistently.

“Unfortunately we aren’t there yet but we’re three years into our journey (since the takeover by Jon Flatman) and we’ll keep striving to be better.

“We know where we need to improve. The attitude at this club is fantastic and I’m sure we will.”

The Knights led 4-0 courtesy of two Connor Robinson penalties but Featherstone went 8-4 ahead by the break and two quick-fire tries on the resumption took the game away from the hosts. Two late tries sealed the win, with York having by that point withdrawn Liam Salter due to injury, with no interchanges left.

Ford, who is up for the Championship Coach of the Year gong at the league’s awards night on Tuesday, added of his team’s performance: “Defensively I thought we needed to probably select our tackles a bit better.

“Obviously it’s a play-off game and the boys were ramped up, but there were a couple of times where we selected to try to tackle too hard and there was a little bit of ricochet which led to ruck speed for them, and obviously they caused us some problems.

“We just needed to be a bit smarter, because the free plays had a massive impact on our energy. There was a period where we defended five sets on our goal line. They didn’t score from it but it certainly damaged our energy for the rest of the game.

“We’ll learn from it. We’ve got a lot of young lads. For most of that team, that’s their first taste of the play-offs in the Championship.

“The likes of Ronan Dixon and Jack Teanby will be better for it.”

With a nod to his team’s record-breaking wins on their way to the 2018 League One title, Ford continued: “The players understand what they needed to do but it’s difficult when you’re playing against a good side.

“It’s all right putting 100 points on other sides but, when you’re playing against a side of near-on Super League quality – they’ve got enough Super League players in their side – who are very well coached as well, it’s hard to break them down.

“On four or five occasions we half-penetrated, we kind of got away, but let’s credit Fev – they scrambled back and halted it, and it takes a real tough team to do that.”

The Knights ended the contest with only 12 men after Salter, having played with broken ribs, was withdrawn from the action, with the game by that point gone.

Ford explained of those interchanges: “We were playing with a number of injured players so we had to make some changes. Ten minutes into the second half we had a gamble and that was all our subs used, and it didn’t pay off.

“Liam would have played on, but there was no point. It would have just made it (his injury) worse.”

On Salter playing in the first place with broken ribs, Ford stated: “He is probably the toughest bloke I’ve ever met.

“We considered numbing it up (with an injection). Liam took a paracetamol. He’s just a tough kid.

“When you think about his style of play - he runs hard, he tackles hard, he’s aggressive. To do that with broken ribs against a very physical side – I’m absolutely full of admiration for him.”