JAMES FORD is confident that new recruit Ben Johnston can turn his friendship with Connor Robinson off the field into a strong partnership on the field in 2020.

Johnston returned to York from Halifax during his the off-season, having previously featured for the Knights from 2012 to 2013.

The former Castleford Tigers half-back had been a key part of the Halifax side which earned three top-four finishes in the past five years.

Johnston is close friends with Knights talisman Robinson from the pair's time at Fax and Ford has named the pair as his numbers six and seven for next season in the Betfred Championship.

“Ben has played at the top end of the Championship for a number of years with Halifax," said the Knights coach.

"He’ll bring a good running threat to the team and he’s very evasive.

"He’s naturally a superb support player. He’s done that role from being a junior onwards.

"He’s got that knack of being able to read the game, putting himself in the right positions and scoring important tries.

“He’s got a great relationship with Connor, both on and off the field.

"You can see that in training, they got on really well and that connection is very positive.

“Ben’s been training to a very good level and he’s impacted on the group as well.

“As long as he continues to work hard on his game, I’m confident and hopeful that Ben will have a really positive season for us."

As to whether that friendship away from rugby can lead to better cohesion on the field, Ford replied: “I think having strong connections with your team-mates is always important and it can certainly help the dynamics of a group.

“But, there needs to be a professional relationship there as well where they know that they’ve got a job to do

"And those two will have a huge job to do, not only on the field but in terms of driving our standards and helping some of the younger players develop.

“I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve stepped up in that role."

Johnston and Robinson are the two sole out-and-out half-backs currently in the York squad, though Ford insisted he was happy with his current options in that department.

“We’ve got Lewis Brown on trial and Matty Marsh has played a significant portion of his rugby league (career) in the halves,” he added. “Danny Washbrook has played there in Super League too, so I feel like we have got sufficient cover in that area.

“But if the right player became available for the right amount of money, then I would ask the board if we could bring him in.”

York Acorn scrum-half Brown is one of six players currently on trial at York, with Harry Bardle, Stephen Gibbs, Josh Parker, AJ Towse and Myles Harrison.

Next month’s three pre-season matches will likely see some given game time.

“I’ll field a strong side because we’ll be looking at tweaking a few things in how we play, in both attack and defence,” said Ford of his Featherstone team selection.

“But, at the same time, I want to give a lads on trial an opportunity. I certainly want to see Lewis Brown, Josh Parker and Harry Bardle. I want to give them some good game time to see where they’re at.

“I want to give them the best opportunity to earn a contract here. We’re still undecided as to whether Myles or AJ will play. It’s certainly not to do with their commitment or skill level in training - which has been great.

“They’ve looked like York players, apart from the fact that they’re 16 and they’re young 16-year-olds.

“If I’m honest, I’d rather have a moderately upset 16-year-old who is a bit disappointed that he hasn’t been given a game, rather than one of them pick up a broken arm or something serious against a strong side like Featherstone.

“We haven’t made a decision either way just yet. But with every session, we’re getting more and more impressed by them.”