JAMES FORD described the closely-fought 30-22 defeat to Betfred Championship promotion contenders Featherstone Rovers as a “starting point” for York City Knights.

York pushed big-spending and second-placed Featherstone all the way at the Millennium Stadium in a much-improved display following three straight dispiriting defeats.

The Knights ultimately fell short though and as a result dropped to sixth in the table, with seven games left.

There were plenty of positives to take though for Ford as he seeks a strong run-in to the end of the season.

“It was certainly a step forward,” assessed head coach Ford. “I asked the players for more intent and to start the game with our standards physically and defensively.

“I thought we defended much better in those areas, when you factor in that Featherstone have got some blokes in backfield that are hard to handle.

“We were miles off last week against Batley (in a 32-16 defeat) and here, we were much closer. I’ve spoken to the boys about using this as a platform to build from.

“I’ve seen a starting point here. We’ll celebrate the improvements but that’s only a starting point.

“We need to be better than this against Newcastle and that’s our focus now.”

Despite missing pivots Matty Marsh and Jamie Ellis, York showed better signs in attack, scoring 20-plus points for only the second time in their last six matches.

“It was mixed,” Ford said of the offence. “I thought there were some better moments and some moments where the ball hits the ground and we unravelled. I think we tried to force it early in the second half.

“I think that Joe Brown showed plenty of class at full-back and showed that he can fill in for Marshy, if he’s missing in the future.”