YORK Acorn ARLC coach Josh Mortimer has hailed the player-led atmosphere at Thanet Road - and says they are still gunning for the title.

Almost one third of the way through this National Conference League division one campaign, Acorn are sitting pretty in second place off the back of five consecutive wins.

Mortimer says it is essential the Blue and Golds continue this run with a tricky trio of fixtures approaching, starting with a trip to Skirlaugh on Saturday, before they face Wigan St Patrick's and Milford.

And his squad appear up to the task, with many withdrawing themselves from last week's planned York & District representatives game with an eye on their league campaign, while injured players - notables at the moment being Daryl North and Nathan Welsh - still go to training to maintain fitness.

"I said to them, 'If you want to play (the Y&D game), play. If you want to rest, you deserve a rest'," Mortimer said.

"I'm treating them more like adults, making their own decisions, and I think, because of that, they're making their own targets and buying into it.

"I'm still steering them, and if they start to move away from it, I say, and their response to that is good.

"The lads have created (the atmosphere) themselves and they want to be a part of it.

"We had a little review at a barbecue last Thursday, a little team bonding, and the lads reaffirmed their targets - they're still wanting to win the league.

"Our next three games are against fifth, fourth and third. We have obviously highlighted those three games - if we're serious about what we want to do, they're three games we've got to win.

"Skirlaugh are going to be tough - they're always tough at their place, and we've got to be on it.

"We can't let the momentum or standards drop."

Acorn's last outing, a fortnight ago, ended in a 44-10 home win over Oulton Raiders, with a season-high set-completion rate (all bar four) and just three errors throughout.

Despite that scoreline, Mortimer is hoping to see improvements at Skirlaugh.

"I wasn't that impressed at Oulton," he admitted. "It sounds daft but I was disappointed with our overall enthusiasm and pace.

"It was well done and I'm really proud we put away a good team comfortably, but we lacked enthusiasm.

"We were efficient but not startling.

"We had a really good session last night and I'm expecting them to play really well at the weekend."

James Mountford is likely to come in for Nick Speck. Mortimer is still mulling over the unavailable Matthew Woods' replacement.

In division three, Heworth host Batley Boys.

Heworth 'A' have had their NCL Alliance Group 2 fixture at Drighlington 'A' changed to Elmpark Way (1.30pm).

In the Yorkshire Men's League premier division, New Earswick All Blacks travel to Nottingham Outlaws and, in division two, Acorn 'A' host Keighley Albion.