THE question went to City of York Council earlier this week - will Bootham Crescent finally be ready to host the Knights should James Ford's men get a home tie in the play-offs?

Well, we're not quite there yet but the council's community stadium team still "believe it is possible" that sockets for rugby posts will be sorted by then and the safety certificate will have been approved in time having at last been submitted on Thursday.

(So much for the idea that the Knights would be able to move in straight away as soon as they sign a stadium agreement!)

Either way, looking at the remaining fixtures, it is very possible that Ford's braves will indeed bank a home fixture in next month's knock-outs.

The play-off race in the last few weeks has gone down from eight teams to seven, with Newcastle now out of the running, while leaders Oldham are assured of a top-five place.

The Knights' season is likewise almost certainly going to go into overtime. The only way that won't now happen is if they lose their last two games and Rochdale win theirs and overturn a points-difference deficit of 148 (which equates to 37-0 results in all of those four matches). North Wales must win their matches too.

It is worth putting your mortgage on both Keighley and Swinton winning one of their three remaining games to similarly guarantee themselves a play-off place as well - most probably in their rearranged games on Bank Holiday Monday against London Skolars and Oxford respectively.

So that leaves the fifth and final berth as a straight race between North Wales, Rochdale and Barrow.

Rochdale were sat in that seat yesterday but North Wales were favourites to have it today, on the assumption they beat Skolars last night (a game which came too late for these deadlines).

Then comes a key clash between Barrow and Rochdale next weekend, 24 hours before the Crusaders host the Knights. Barrow come to York in the last round of regular season fixtures and it remains possible - as this column predicted a few weeks ago - that they could have dropped out of the running by then.

So what needs to happen for the Knights to have a home play-off?

First off, they'd need to finish first, second or third for it to be possible.

Whoever wins the league gets home advantage in the "promotion final" against whoever finishes second. Whoever wins that, gets promoted. York, at this stage, have a mathematical but very unrealistic chance of finishing top.

Whoever loses that match gets home advantage in the play-off semi-finals, meaning if you finish first or second, then lose the promotion final, you would get a home play-off. York currently occupy second place but both Keighley and Swinton can leapfrog them with their games in hand and, with Keighley in particular having an easy run-in, it would be a big surprise if the Cougars don't finish as runners-up in the table.

The other play-off semi-final sees third host fourth. So what are the chances of York finishing third?

Well, assuming Oldham and Keighley finish first and second, that leaves York and Swinton next in line.

If Swinton win all of their games, they would finish above York regardless - but they still have Oldham to play, at Oldham, where Oldham are unbeaten this year.

If they lose that and the Knights win both their remaining games against North Wales and Barrow, then Ford's team finish third. Hence, it's very possible they'll have a home tie.

If they finish four or fifth, meanwhile, they get an away semi-final, and with the final at a neutral venue (Widnes), it will mean they won't need Bootham Crescent until next year.


1 Oldham (played 20, points 34, points-difference 402)

September 6: Swinton Lions (H)

September 13: Oxford (A)

Likely final points total: 36-38

2 Knights (played 20, points 30, points-difference 434)

September 6: North Wales Crusaders (A)

September 13: Barrow Raiders (A)

Likely final points total: 30-34

3 Keighley Cougars (played 19, points 30, points-difference 263)

August 31: London Skolars (A)

September 6: Univ of Gloucestershire (A)

September 13: Hemel Stags (H)

Likely final points total: 36

4 Swinton Lions (played 19, points 29, points-difference 353)

August 31: Oxford (H)

September 6: Oldham (A)

September 13: South Wales Scorpions (H)

Likely final points total: 31-35

5 Rochdale (played 20, points 26, points-difference 286)

September 5: Barrow Raiders (A)

September 13: London Skolars (H)

Likely final points total: 28-30

6 North Wales Crusaders (played 19, points 25, points-difference 252)

August 28: London Skolars (A)

September 6: York City Knights (H)

September 13 Newcastle Thunder (A)

Likely final points total: 27-31

7 Barrow (played 20, points 24, points-difference 218)

September 5: Rochdale Hornets (H)

September 13: York City Knights (A)

Likely final points total: 24-28

THE race for The Press Player of the Year gong, meanwhile, is not yet over.

Ed Smith has closed the gap on long-time leader Greg Minikin after picking up player of the year points in two of the last three matches.

He was our man of the match in the win at London Skolars (3pts) and also our third-best rated player in the defeat to North Wales (1pt), taking his season's tally to 24 points.

Minikin, though, kept him at arm's length by being our second-best player at Skolars (2pts), when his second of two tries sealed victory.

He is now four points ahead in the leaderboard, although the three bonus points which go with the August Player of the Month award are still to be decided - and could be interesting.

To get your votes in for that gong, email or tweet @PMartiniPress by Wednesday. The winner will be named in this column next week.

Josh Tonks, meanwhile, gave himself a slither of a chance with a man-of-the-match display (3pts) against the Crusaders. However, at ten points behind Minikin, he will need to get big points in four games - which in turn means the Knights will have to reach the play-off final.

Elsewhere, Ryan Mallinder finally got onto the leaderboard this week, and in some style too, with the man-of-the-match award against Hemel (3pts) as well as plaudits for his performance against the Skolars a week earlier (1pt).

The points winners in the last three games were:

Versus Skolars: Ed Smith 3pts, Minikin 2pts, Mallinder 1pt.

Versus North Wales: Tonks 3pts, Jonny Presley 2pts, Ed Smith 1pt.

Versus Hemel: Mallinder 3pts, Mark Applegarth 2pts, Kriss Brining 1pt.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Minikin 27pts, E Smith 23, Tonks 17, Brining 13, Nicholson 11, Howden 10, Applegarth 10, Cunningham 8, Haynes 7, Aldous 5, Presley 7, P Smith 5, Morrison 4, Clare 4, Mallinder 4, B Dent 3, A Dent 2, Blagbrough 2, Learmonth 2, Roche 1, Aspinall 1, Craig 1, Carter 1.