HALIFAX Panthers and York City Knights will do battle on Sunday morning (11.30am) for the final play-off place in the early Betfred Championship table.

Halifax currently occupy sixth place with York just one spot behind. Both sides have four wins and four losses from their first eight league matches.

Despite their 50-50 record, the Panthers boast a tremendous points difference.

Having scored 241 points and conceded 129, Simon Grix’s side have, on paper, the best attack and the best defence in the division outside of the unbeaten top two in Toulouse Olympique and Featherstone Rovers, who look a clear cut above all the other promotion contenders at present.

After a tricky start to the season, which saw defeats by Batley Bulldogs, Toulouse, Bradford Bulls and Oldham in their first five, Halifax have responded strongly and look like one of the Championship’s form sides with three wins from their last four.

Remarkably, the Fax defence conceded no points in away wins against Dewsbury Rams (0-36) and Newcastle Thunder (0-32).

Halifax also showcased their ability in attack by racking up their second 40-plus score of the season in a 46-12 thrashing of Sheffield Eagles.

Even the sole defeat in this most recent run, 8-16 to Featherstone, was somewhat tempered by the game’s tight nature and the stand-out quality of the Rovers this year.

Those results have gone a long way to silencing the bizarre calls from some sections of the Halifax fanbase for the sacking of head coach Grix.

The former Fax forward stepped up from player to coach following the departure of Richard Marshall midway through the 2019 season.

Since his arrival, Grix has overseen a large overhaul of the Halifax squad with a number of the club’s key players from their top-four finishes of previous seasons, who were only recently team-mates of Grix’s, heading elsewhere.

Of the 21-man squad named by Halifax for this weekend’s game, fewer than half of them played under former boss Marshall.

The likes of Shane Grady, Ben Johnston and Ben Kaye left in Grix’s first off-season while further stellar names, such as captain Scott Murrell and centre Steve Tyrer, took up other offers.

The club pointed to a reduction in budget, amid the coronavirus pandemic, for some of those decisions, but despite that, Halifax have recruited shrewdly.

Grix has brought in two new half-backs, both of whom will be familiar to York fans, in Connor Robinson and Liam Harris.

The pair led York’s attack in the run-in to a third-placed finish in the Championship in 2019 and will be looking to produce similar at Halifax.

Robinson will though miss the meeting with his former club after suffering a broken foot. Fax are also without Huddersfield Giants loanees Sam Hewitt and Oliver Russell.

Outside backs Nick Rawsthorne (Hull KR) and Greg Worthington (Toronto Wolfpack) arrived from the Betfred Super League while in the pack they have recruited Gadwin Springer (Toronto), Dan Murray (Hull KR) and Adam Tangata (Wakefield Trinity).

Halifax Panthers squad: Grix, Rawsthorne, Worthington, Woodburn-Hall, Saltonstall, Harris, Morris, Moore, Murray, Garside, Barber, Fairbank, Larroyer, Springer, Calcott, Kavanagh, McGrath, McComb, Bourouh, Tibbs, Tangata.