YORK City Knights pushed Betfred Championship promotion contenders Featherstone Rovers all the way in a 30-22 defeat at the Millennium Stadium.

York entered the game on a three-game losing streak to fellow top-six contenders Barrow Raiders, Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs and were given little hope against big-spending Featherstone.

The Knights held their own throughout and, but for some more composure in attack, they could have taken a shock two points.

After AJ Towse’s early opener, Fev rallied to score three times but a depleted York came back with back-to-back scores.

The Rovers eventually proved too strong and a couple of quick-fire tries short of the hour mark saw them do enough to seal a fourth straight win.

Yet throughout there was no lack of effort from the Knights, who produced arguably their best display since early May, given the standard of the opposition, with a reported £1.3m budget.

The defeat does though see James Ford’s side drop to sixth and while there are positives to be taken from the trip to the formerly-named Post Office Road, they must be built upon in the final seven matches of the season.

Ford will likely have more options to pick from during that run-in, having been without Chris Clarkson, Masi Matongo and Bailey Antrobus through injury, while Myles Harrison and Marcus Stock also dropped out.

In their place, Brad Ward, Ronan Michael, Ronan Dixon, Joe Porter and Jacob Ogden returned, with the latter in the unfamiliar back-row role while Joe Brown started at full-back for the first time as a York player.

Having seen Clarkson, Matongo and Antrobus join an injury list that already contained Matty Marsh, Will Oakes, Jamie Ellis and Toby Warren, the team-sheet made for daunting reading.

Those fears were however quickly allayed by the sight of Towse’s fourth-minute effort. Brendan O’Hagan ducked through a gap in the line before releasing the teenage winger for another memorable acrobatic finish in the corner.

Liam Harris was unable to land the touchline kick, although he found the target with his other two conversion attempts.

Ford expressed his disappointment with the nature of the defending in the defeat to Batley and would have likely been frustrated by Featherstone’s try in response.

Junior Moors passed for Gadwin Springer to stroll under the sticks without a finger laid on him.

Craig Hall added the extras, the first of four successful conversions from five attempts.

Rovers looked confident in attack, with their back-rowers unafraid to kick the ball, as shown when Brett Ferres’ grubber won a drop-out.

The pressure told when the impressive Matty Wildie squirmed out of dummy-half and past a couple of defenders.

Ferres was involved again when his pass fired off Towse to win a repeat set from which Jack Bussey eased past some weak goal-line defence to ground.

At 18-4 down, things went from bad to worse as Liam Harris was forced off injured for the rest of the half.

During the half’s final 10 minutes, it seemed as if York were destined to concede again as multiple errors gave Fev plenty of field position, although, fortunately for the visitors, they failed to do anything with it.

While those in the stands may have been praying for the half-time whistle, the York players had other ideas.

Seconds before the interval, Pauli Pauli made a typical rampaging run and stand-in full-back Brown showed great presence to race to the line with a fine supporting run. With Harris off the field, James Glover added the extras.

The gap was then cut from eight down to two when, five minutes after the restart, Ward conjured a glorious one-handed finish in the corner despite having little space to work with. Back on the pitch, Harris tagged on the two points.

Opposite winger Towse conceded a drop-out from the restart but Fev were not able to immediately profit, with a left-side play between Craig Hall and Tom Lineham ending in the ball going over the sideline.

It was a mark of just how tough going the match had become for Fev that they chose to kick for two on 54 minutes, through Hall, rather than go for a try.

A four-pointer soon came their way though. The live-wire hooker Connor Jones squirmed out of dummy-half to score from a messy ruck.

Ex-York man Morgan Smith then nailed a 40/20, giving the field position for another former Knight, Lineham, to slide over down the left side.

Trailing by three scores, the game was pretty much beyond York yet they continued to plough on for points amid a return to consistent errors between the two sides.

With seven minutes left, Brendan O’Hagan ghosted through some hesitant Rovers defence and the gap was back to eight.

In the dying stages, the Australian then kicked wide for Towse but he failed to find another finish from a tough spot, being put in touch by the home defence to seal the two points that had been earned in a far tougher fashion than anyone could have predicted.

Featherstone: Broadbent, Briscoe, Leilua, Hall, Lineham, Smith, Jacks, Moors, Wildie, Springer, Hardcastle, Ferres, Bussey.

Subs (all used): Jones, Davies, Cooper, Eseh.

Tries: Springer (8’), Wildie (13’), Bussey (24’), Jones (56’), Lineham (58’)

Goals: Hall (5/6)

York: Brown, Ward, Glover, Edwards, Towse, O’Hagan, Harris, Pauli, Jubb, Michael, Ogden, Kirmond, Thompson.

Subs (all used): Teanby, Dixon, Porter, Inman.

Tries: Towse (4’), Brown (40’), Ward (45’), O’Hagan (73’)

Goals: Harris (2/3), Glover (1/1)

York’s star man: Joe Brown. The winger stood in well at full-back and scored a brilliant try from Pauli Pauli’s offload.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths

Attendance: Not given

Penalties/Six-agains: 8-8

Goal-line drop-outs forced: 2-1