JAMES FORD thinks that Featherstone Rovers might be feeling the pressure of their promotion favourites tag at present.

York City Knights travel to the Millennium Stadium on Sunday (3pm) to face a Featherstone side that have won all of their last three matches, beating bottom five clubs Whitehaven, London Broncos and Newcastle Thunder in succession.

While posting at least 40 points in each match, second-placed Rovers have also conceded 22 points or more on each occasion, a likely concern for the club during the on-going run-in to the play-offs.

Brian McDermott’s side, the bookmakers’ promotion favourites in pre-season, lost their last two before their current three-match winning streak, defeated at home to part-time Batley Bulldogs 28-20 and going down 32-12 at current Betfred Championship leaders Leigh Centurions, who are three points above Fev.

“There’s a lot of pressure on Featherstone,” said York head coach Ford. “Their strategy is to win it now.

“We want to do that as well, but we’re building a club and a team, so there’s certainly far less pressure on us.

“Maybe they’re feeling that (pressure). They’ve thrown all their eggs in one basket, I believe, and Leigh are above them.

“Featherstone will still fancy their chances. They’ve beaten Leigh before, they’ve got £1.3m-worth of players, so they’ll fancy their chances against anybody.

“We’re going there focused on us and we need to see a marked improvement.

“We’ve not beaten Featherstone away for a long time (2006).

“But 2022 was the first time that we beat Batley away and it was the first time that we beat Whitehaven away (both since reforming as York City Knights in 2002).

“Let’s hope that it’s the first time that we beat Featherstone away for a long time as well.”

Fifth-placed York head to West Yorkshire on the back of three straight losses to fellow top six sides Halifax Panthers, Barrow Raiders and Batley Bulldogs.

Ford added on the team’s current form: “We’ve lost a little bit of our intent defensively, we’ve not had the same bite about us and it has impacted on our attack.

“At times this year, we’ve scored some special tries playing some special rugby and that’s been on the back of being good defensively and kicking well.

“We’re chasing those improvements and we don’t just want to get back to the standards we were at, we want to go past them.

“Against Featherstone I want to see some intent defensively and I want to see us getting off our line and defending like a York team defends.

“I want to see more shape in our middles and in our yardage carries. And I want us to execute better when we get into good ball.”

It is not just on the playing field that Ford is seeking to implement change, with improvements also targeted behind the scenes in preparation.

“We’re ramping up training,” he revealed. “We tapered it down a little bit because we wanted to build towards the play-off series.

“If I’m honest, I don’t think that has helped. At times, I think we’ve been miles off. So we’re going to be working hard.

“I’m asking questions individually to players of why they were and weren’t doing certain things (in Monday night's 32-16 defeat to Batley).

“We’ve been clarifying stuff and making sure that our expectations are clear.”