JAMES FORD is relishing the opportunity to resuming the rivalry between York City Knights and Bradford when the Bulls make the trip to Bootham Crescent on Sunday afternoon.

York pipped Bradford to become League 1 champions in 2018 after a thrilling title race between the two clubs throughout the campaign.

And that remained when the two clubs competed in last term's Betfred Championship, with the Knights winning a dramatic late July clash 25-24 at Bootham Crescent in their crucial run-in towards the play-offs.

Including last month's friendly game, four of the past five meetings between the sides have been settled by a winning margin of two points or less.

"I think that there is a really good rivalry between the two clubs," said Ford. "I think that the two sets of players do bring out the best in one another.

"I think that four of the last few games have been decided by two points or less. Bradford won the friendly by two, and we won last year's league game by a point (at Bootham Crescent), the year before it was one win each, both times by two points.

"There's certainly not a lot between the sides.

"They're great games to be involved in.

"It felt like watching the game in slow motion, watching Jordan Lilley go for the drop goal last year, then our drop goal go over.

"It's very exciting to be part of this rivalry and we're really looking forward to the weekend."

It's been a turbulent off-season for Bradford, with new owners taking charge of the club, a move to Dewsbury Rams' Tetley's Stadium confirmed and a number of players leaving and arriving.

Just eight of the 17 players that featured in the most recent meeting of the two sides back in July remain at the club.

Ford maintains that they remain a strong squad, particularly with veteran coach John Kear still at the helm.

"I think they're a good side," said Ford.

"They've got a big forward pack, with big middles and two very good half-backs in Rowan Milnes and Jordan Lilley.

"They've got some speed out wide with (Joe) Brown, (Matty) Dawson Jones and (David) Foggin-Johnston, who are three quality players who can cause problems for you on the edges.

"John has done a good job of putting a good side together.

"It's certainly a different environment for him there this year with a budget that has been cut, but it's still a pretty healthy budget compared to other sides in the competition.

"I thought that they played very well against London and they worked really hard for each other. They probably counted themselves as a little bit unfortunate not to come away with anything from that game."

York return to Bootham Crescent searching for their first win of the new season having fallen short in a highly competitive season opener at Toulouse by 22-10 scoreline.

The French side, who have been tipped as title favourites by the trade press, eventually prevailed after a strong York start.

But, Ford was keen to take positives on the shortening gap between themselves and the division’s full-time sides.

“Toulouse are, I believe, a full-time and it was only three years ago that this team lost to Oxford,” he reflected.

“Now we’re going to Toulouse with genuine aspirations to win and the confidence that we can win.

“And there is some expectation on us and that’s on the back of us doing pretty well over the last couple of seasons.

“Having said that, last year when we played Toronto, Featherstone and Toulouse, we were second best.

“We went away to Toronto and lost 56-6 and we were probably lucky to get six points.

“Featherstone beat us heavily a couple of times last year.

“And Toulouse pinched it late against us a couple of times.

“But now I feel like we’ve taken a step closer and we’re a lot closer to those genuine top three sides. I feel like that gap is closing.

“I’m really confident in the players that we’ve got and the culture that we’ve got as well as the attitude towards hard work here.”