THEIR fight for first-team berths might be even tougher now after this week's spate of signings but York City Knights boss James Ford has heaped praise aplenty onto the Dent brothers as they continue battling away for their hometown club.

Big brother Ben was a mainstay of the side in 2014 and 2015, bagging 32 tries and 69 goals in 46 appearances, while fellow winger-cum-full-back Adam played nine times in that period and notched seven tries and two goals.

But the former has struggled to nail down a place this term after the arrival of high-profile recruits Richard Wilkinson, Austin Buchanan and Brett Turner, and has started just nine of the 16 matches. Adam has had to stay even more patient, playing five times.

This week's recruitment on loan of Halifax threequarters Tommy Saxton and Sam Smeaton, plus the signing on playing terms of former Bradford back Andy Smith, ramps up competition for places in the back line even further.

Nevertheless, Ben, 24, came back from some below-par form and a luckless show in the iPro Sport Cup final loss to Keighley to give a man-of-the-match performance in the stunning win over League One leaders Rochdale.

Adam likewise turned in a top-notch display under pressure in last Sunday's victory over arch-rivals Hunslet - meaning Ford is unlikely to leave him out for tomorrow's trip to Oxford, despite the increasing competition for places.

"Ben Dent had some real tough fortune in recent weeks - being on the end of some outrageous (refereeing) calls," said Ford of the former New Earswick All Blacks amateur.

"That one against Keighley (in the iPro Cup final) when the ref said he'd knocked on yet he was two metres away from the ball, was awful, and again against Coventry, some calls that went against him were shocking.

"I know that can knock your confidence. I've played back there myself and it can affect you and you can go into your shell.

"But Ben has fronted up and against Rochdale he gave a marvellous performance at full-back against a team at the top of the table."

Adam, another homegrown product, might be seen by supporters predominantly as cover but he has proven ever-reliable when called upon, not least against Hunslet when the Hawks sent difficult kicks his way in the drizzling rain.

Having played most of the game on the wing, he finished it at full-back as the 11-man Knights held on for victory after the sin-binning of big brother Ben and then captain Jack Aldous.

"The standout player by a mile for me (against Hunslet) was Adam Dent," said Ford.

"It was a superb performance in difficult conditions against good players. He took some world-class catches, he was great out of dummy-half and defensively he did lots of good things.

"He's been patience personified and this performance was one of the best I've seen from an outside back at this club."

Ford was also confident the pair could benefit from the arrival of the experienced new boys, who between them have a wealth of experience at a higher level than League One.

Asked if those recent signings might shunt either back down the pecking order, the head coach said: "They're all competing for two (wing) places plus the full-back position.

"It's a good opportunity for Ben and Adam, and James Morland, to look at how Tommy, for example, plays and to see the things he does and maybe learn from him."

THE arrival of six new players in the last fortnight, all on loan, might lead to some fringe first-teamers going the other way.

With the squad now bigger than at any point this season, if only temporarily, boss James Ford intimated he might allow - or even want - some players to go out on loan, especially with the club having no reserves team in which to keep them match sharp.

Ford said: "I believe in training and preparation but players need to play as well.

"We've got a really good squad and it's going to be the case that one of two people's opportunities will be limited. I want to do right by the boys and if they went on loan to help their fitness and form, we wouldn't be against that."

JAMES FORD might be a part-time Manchester Un*ted supporter (yes, we know that's very poor, especially for a Yorkshireman) but it's unclear if he took a leaf out of angry Alex Ferguson's book at half-time of last week's comeback win.

Ferguson was known for giving the "hairdryer treatment" in the changing rooms if his side weren't performing and famously kicked a football boot at poor David Beckham during a bust-up when Un*ted got knocked out of the 2003 FA Cup, cutting the England player above an eye.

Last Sunday, the Knights were trailing at the interval against Hunslet, and during the break head coach Ford and assistant Will Leatt exited the changing rooms long before the players re-emerged for the second half.

He wouldn't say what was said behind closed doors and, although he suggested there had been strong words, it's unclear if there were any "hairdryers".

"I'm not going to get into the boys too often - I'm proud of their efforts and commitment - but we were short in one or two areas in the first half," he said.

"I'm not going to chuck football boots about but there was a strong intimation we could do better - and I'm really proud of the response."

Having seen his side fight back from 12-0 down only to concede on the stroke of half-time to trail 18-12, Ford said: "If you write a book on how not to start a game, copy what we did.

"We invited so much pressure, and against a good team. But we stood up (in defence) and handled it pretty well and the boys reacted positively to what we said at half-time and delivered a really good performance."

FORMER Knights Player of the Year Jack Lee needs one appearance to reach 200 for his career, having made his 199th against his former club last week.

The 27-year-old, a League One Player of the Year in his time at Huntington Stadium, has played 41 games for Hunslet since 2015, to add to 116 for York (2010-2014) and 42 for Featherstone (2008-2010).