YORK City Knights’ hopes of sneaking into the Betfred Championship play-offs came to an end as they suffered a 36-18 defeat to rivals Bradford Bulls at the LNER Community Stadium.

Here are five things that we learnt from the game.

1. York’s slim chances making the play-offs are now surely gone

Achieving a play-off finish has long seemed like a distant task for York and the defeat against Bradford was merely confirmation for what had long appeared inevitable.

The Knights’ run of six straight defeats midway through the season practically killed off any chance of making it into the top six, but James Ford’s side have battled admirably through a raft of injuries in recent weeks to give themselves a fighting chance.

But York have simply been a level below those promotion-challenging sides this year. On every occasion they have met a current top six outfit, they have been beaten.

There is still a chance York could place seventh, though they are reliant on Whitehaven slipping up, which seems unlikely given their recent thrashing of Widnes Vikings.

2. Injury concerns reflect 2021 season

However frustrating it may be to supporters and to those around York themselves, much of the discussion surrounding the club in 2021 has concerned absentees, whether through injury or coronavirus.

Just as it looked as if York were seeing light at the end of the tunnel, having recalled Kieran Dixon and Jason Bass as well as having handed two debuts to youngsters Aidan McGowan and Jacob Gannon, both of whom have been affected by coronavirus, injuries struck again.

Jack Teanby was pulled out after not making it through the warm-up, which, far from ideally, meant Liam Salter - who was on the wing last week - went into the forwards and Danny Kirmond moved into the middles.

York were quickly without both starting props when Jordan Baldwinson went off injured midway through the first half and then hooker Will Jubb left the field with a concussion.

Having largely seen injury afflict the half-back and hooker positions, to lose their entire front row was a new challenge for the Knights.

It would be wrong to suggest that all of York’s shortcomings this year have been as a result of injury, but it would be equally foolish to forget them completely.

In many ways, the departure of the forwards summarised what a bruising year this has been.

3. Ex-Knight Danny Brough shines on return

Matty Marsh and Corey Johnson have performed admirably as cover in the halves over recent weeks for the Knights but Bradford duo Jordan Lilley and Danny Brough showed the standard of half-back combination needed for a top six Championship finish.

Brough in particular was superb upon his return after months out injured. In the first half especially, York just could not cope with his kicking game, which afforded the Bulls plenty of cheap metres.

In just their second game together in the halves and not in their usual positions, by contrast, Marsh and Johnson were always going to find it tough going against one of the league’s best pairings.

4. Now may be the time to play youngsters

With the play-offs now practically out of sight for York, head coach Ford may now turn his head to the 2022 season and have an eye on blooding through some of the club’s youngsters.

Ford has long spoken of his desire to find some game time for teenage trio Myles Harrison, AJ Towse and Toby Warren - all of whom played one game on loan at Rochdale Hornets earlier this month.

The youngsters have plenty of potential, Ford has consistently said, and in the remaining games of the year may be given a chance to shine.

Warren, who play in the second-row for Rochdale, may be the most likely to be called upon in the forward pack, should the injuries to Teanby and Baldwinson prove serious.

As a product of the Heworth system, he can be sure expect plenty of support from Knights fans.

5. Brilliant to see a large crowd at the LNER Community Stadium

In spite of the final scoreline, one of the highlights of the day was witnessing the largest crowd seen at the LNER Community Stadium for a York City Knights game.

While the Knights were unable provide an official attendance for the game, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 fans made their way into the ground.

After seeing the capacity raised by the York Stadium Management Company last week, it was a brilliant sight to see an enlarged crowd, with plenty of away fans, inside the new ground.

It should also be pointed out that a healthy number of supporters stuck around the cheer on the Knights Ladies against Leeds Rhinos afterwards.

The latter of that double header encounter also attracted a fair few Rhinos fans, which again shows its benefit.