YORK City Knights have much in common with this weekend’s opponents Widnes Vikings.

Both sides find themselves in the bottom half - and thus well below their pre-season expectations - both have been hit with injuries through the spine of their team and both have just five wins to their name in the Betfred Championship.

Widnes sit three places above York in the table by virtue of an opening round draw at Newcastle Thunder.

Perhaps most crucially are the two club’s injury issues. York have fielded 11 different pairings at half-back and have been hampered by injuries, coronavirus and short-term loans.

Widnes’ struggles meanwhile have come primarily at hooker, with ex-Wigan and Salford star Logan Tomkins yet to play in 2021 because of a long-term foot problem.

“Clearly he would have been a key player,” explained Love Rugby League editor, BBC Radio Merseyside commentator and Widnes fan James Gordon.

“That was compounded by the fact that Widnes didn’t have a specialist hooker in the squad other than him.

“And obviously it’s very hard for everyone to recruit at the moment.

“Lewis Else, a young scrum-half from the academy, put his hand up and played at there. And then Brad O’Neill from Wigan grew into the role and was the regular hooker until being recalled.

“The hooker position has been a problem and the best form they’ve had there is when O’Neill was integrated into the team. Clearly him getting recalled was far from ideal.”

Those selection issues have not been limited to hooker though, with the forward pack also struggling during the current campaign.

“If you look at the signings they made in the off-season - Paul Clough, Matt Cook and Lee Jewitt.

“Jewitt has played 20 minutes all year and Cook has been in and out with a back problem.

“That’s been a big problem because they’ve just simply not had the bodies in the forwards.

“They’ve moved Matty Smith to loose forward to provide one less rotation in the pack.”

Widnes’ play-off hopes seem to have now gone after last weekend’s collapse against Batley Bulldogs ensured a third straight defeat.

Gordon added: “Widnes controlled the territory and possession in the first half and and were winning 16-6. It didn’t look like they would be in too much trouble.

“But as soon as Batley got two quick tries, Widnes fell apart and Batley ended up running away with it and were running through at will.

“As soon as Batley were on level terms, it looked like Widnes threw the towel in.”

Gordon believes that bottom half sides may now already have more than one eye on 2022.

“I think that the top six is probably done now,” he said. “I think the six that are there are probably the six that will finish there.

“And I think that’s about right based on having seen everyone play this season.

“I think a lot of teams want to get to the end of this weird season, then regroup ahead of next season and whatever that might have in store.”

Widnes squad: Owens, Hatton, Spedding, Tyrer, Cross, Craven, Smith, Clough, Grady, Lawton, Baker, Farnworth, Lyons, Edge, Wilde, Else, Tilleke, Hill, Brookes, Hulme, Roden.