YORK City Knights head coach wants Danny Nicklas to "believe in himself as much as we do" after watching the scrum-half command a superb win over his former club – despite needing to have his head stitched up in the changing rooms.

The former Hull starlet scored a try and five goals as the Knights hammered hosts Doncaster 46-16 to maintain their 100 per cent record this season and lay down a marker for the Kingstone Press League One campaign.

He did so despite departing the field in the first half with blood streaming from his head following a tackle, after he had kicked the ball upfield, by former York second-row Joe Pickets-O'Donnell.

"Danny Nicklas is getting better every week," said Ford of the 24-year-old, who was given the chance to kick-start his career back at York this year following his release by Doncaster last summer.

"I believe in him and the boys do too. We need him to believe in himself as much as we do because he's certainly a player."

Nicklas was one of five ex-Dons in York's team – the others being Russ Spiers, Brett Waller, Richard Wilkinson and Mike Emmett – four of whom scored.

On their displays, Ford: "I think they played as well as they've played since they came to the club.

"They're good players – that's why I brought them here. They played well alongside 12 others who were also excellent."

Ford, meanwhile, refused to criticise Pickets-O'Donnell for his misdemeanours in the game, which included further late shots on Jonny Presley and Wilkinson within 30 seconds of each other, as well as a kick out at Harry Carter.

The second-row – who was sent off against Hunslet last week, although he will receive no further punishment for that – earned a yellow card after the hit on Wilkinson and was substituted by boss Gary Thornton immediately after fouling Carter.

Ford said: "I would have Joe Pickets (in York's squad). He's a full-blooded, big-hearted, aggressive young man and rugby league is for tough people.

"He puts himself about and we respect him.

"In his defence, I reckon he got there as soon as he could.

"Jonny Presley will get that a few times this season but I fancy my middles to look after him.

"At the time I was a bit infuriated but Joe is an aggressive player and I like the fact he brings that to his game. I'm sure the RFL will have a look at it and deal with it appropriately."

Ford reckoned his side "took it up a level" from last week's Challenge Cup victory over Keighley, when they won the first half 20-0 but lost the second 12-0.

Asked if this result was another marker for the rest of the League One season, Ford said: "We will take a marker from the performance. Obviously we're pleased to come away to a big team like Doncaster and win comfortably.

"We will analyse the performance and give the players feedback. We were good but there were areas we need to improve on.

"We've not got an 80-minute performance but we were probably good for about 60 minutes and as we strive to continue to improve, I'm sure there's more distance for us to travel."

Ford added: "We showed a good degree of physicality about our defence and, with the way we controlled the ball and got it in the right areas, we were pretty dominant. I was happy with the kick selection by Jonny Presley and Danny Nicklas.

"Our forwards do carry the ball well but what also helps are all the people moving around them – we're big on the technicalities of rugby league.

"There's a whole heap of push and shape and it opens up defences and means you can win more metres and dominate territory.

"Doncaster are a good team and they weren't too far away. They've got some middles that carry the ball well.

"I do feel a bit for Gary (Thornton) with how the game got away from them – but, look, they will come back. They've got some good players and are a better team than what they showed here."