APPARENTLY rumours quickly went round League One that York City Knights didn't necessarily go all out to win Thursday night's Super 8s match against Doncaster.

Knights boss James Ford has rubbished such speculation, of course, arguing it was a simple case of his team playing poorly for an hour before finding momentum in the last quarter to almost snatch a remarkable result.

But it's fair to assume eyebrows might have been raised at an error-strewn York falling 30-0 down to a side they'd seen off 46-16 away from home earlier in the year.

The reason for such conspiracy theories, of course, is that - with the top five already guaranteed play-off berths and the only issues remaining being who gets who in the semi-finals - losing Thursday's match might just make for a preferable outcome.

As things stand, Toulouse are runaway leaders, Barrow and Rochdale are separated only by points-difference in second and third, and further down come Doncaster and York, Gary Thornton's men leapfrogging Ford's troops after Thursday's result.

Now, who gets who still depends on results this weekend.

But assuming all go to form, Barrow will lose to Toulouse and drop to third and Rochdale will beat Hunslet and go second.

Doncaster should also beat London Skolars and finish fourth, leaving York in fifth, regardless of their result at Keighley.

That would mean Cumbrian bruisers Barrow - League One's clear form team behind Toulouse - hosting Doncaster in one semi-final, and the Knights going to Rochdale in the other, assuming the Hornets lose the promotion final to Toulouse.

Had York beaten Donny, then chances are they'd have to go to Barrow and Doncaster would go to Rochdale.

But the long trek to south west Cumbria doesn't sound too enticing to Knights fans given their team haven't won up at Craven Park for 12 years and haven't beaten the Raiders at all since 2007.

Conversely they've seen off Rochdale in all three meetings this season, including two at Spotland.

Ford, naturally, insists he has no preference for the semi-finals: "Anyone in the Super 8s can beat anyone else."

He also laughed off the idea that making countless first-half mistakes with and without the ball was in any way a tactical masterplan to achieve an end goal.

But, in all seriousness, he did hope that the target of promotion could indeed be helped by the defeat - should lessons be learned in time for the knockouts.

"You want to play to the highest standards every time you go on the field, take the club forward and build reputations," he said.

"You don't get a long career as a player and you want to do well with every opportunity you get on the field.

"I'm upset by how we played on Thursday but the good thing is we get to play again quickly and can right a few wrongs.

"It'll be tough, with three games in a week. But we're going to use it as a positive.

"You don't learn everything as a coach or player from winning every game. You need to learn how to be better when things don't go your way."

He explained: "We were on top at the outset but they got that freak try and mentally we didn't deal with it. We lost our composure a bit as a group.

"It was the same against Hunslet. We were dominating but then they scored a fortunate try and we lost our way.

"We always work hard when we have backs to the wall but we need a bit more leadership on the field when things don't go to plan and to think about how best to get back into it.

"We can do it and we have done it. Don't panic, stick to processes and get your way back into it. You just need to regroup and think about what your next action will be and contribute positively.

"The first half was very disappointing but the points we conceded came on the back of individual errors that are unusual for those players to make.

"The first two by James Haynes were not James Haynes-esque. I've got every confidence in him that next time he goes on the field he'll put that to bed.

"We also invited pressure with daft penalties and that's something we need to improve.

"We only had good ball four times in the first half and probably should have scored three tries.

"If we'd gone in, say, 20-16, we wouldn't have deserved to be there but we'd have been in a position to have a real crack."

He added: "Sometimes you have to take one on the chin to learn something."

There could yet be a twist to come, of course, which would make a mockery of any preference to finish fifth over fourth.

Who's to say Hunslet won't surprise Rochdale, especially after running Toulouse so close. And what chance the in-form Barrow toppling the Frenchmen?

Eyebrows, meanwhile, will certainly be raised if Doncaster slip up again London Skolars.

Oh, and don't say it too loudly but if Toulouse lose the promotion final, York could well be going back there again!

Forget all that, though. The bottom line is that whatever team you might not want in the semi-final could very well await in the final. You have to beat them either way.

IT has been confirmed York's game at Keighley tomorrow will be former Knights player-coach Paul March's last in charge of the Cougars.

His side beat the Knights in the iPro Sport Cup final but, as expected, he has been axed for failing to achieve promotion, his team not reaching the play-offs.

Opposite number James Ford said: "Paul's won the iPro Cup and looking at it that way it's pretty harsh.

"I'm not privy to all the details so can't really comment but Paul has contributed a lot to rugby league over the last 20 years and hopefully he'll get another opportunity soon."

On tomorrow, Ford added: "If I was Paul, I'd want my players to play with an enormous amount of tenacity if it's their last game together. I'm sure that will be the case.

"We're underdogs - it's our third game in a week and we have one or two missing or tired. Keighley will fancy their chances, especially on the back of our first hour on Thursday.

"But it's more about us. We want a response and to build momentum."

March himself said: "There’s no pressure on us because we can’t make the play-offs but it’s our last home game and we want to send the boys out there to enjoy themselves.

“It’s going to be an emotional game for us as it’s my last game in charge and this group of players aren’t going to play together again.”

KEIGHLEY chairman Gary Fawcett has paid tribute to Paul March ahead of the 37-year-old's farewell to Cougar Park - albeit while forcefully showing him the door.

Former Super League star March, after stints as York and Hunslet player-boss, joined Keighley as a player ahead of the 2012 campaign and succeeded Jason Demetriou as player-coach at the end of that season.

His reign included a controversial relegation from the Championship, an agonising play-off final defeat last year and the tragic death of popular playmaker Danny Jones.

Fawcett said: “At the beginning of 2016 we strengthened the team that had come so close to being promoted in 2015.

“The bookies saw us as joint favourites along with Toulouse and rightly so.

“Toulouse performed to everyone's expectations and we fell apart in the second half of the season.

“When surveying the wreckage of what has been a hugely disappointing season, lessons have been learned and fundamental changes will be implemented.

“Personally, I am very disappointed to see Marchy go.

“He has worked incredibly hard for the club and loves rugby league.

“His replacement will find it very hard to replicate what Marchy has done for the club on and off the pitch.

“However, on the pitch is where it counts and, despite a tremendous squad on paper, we delivered our worst season's result for over a decade.

“I hope Marchy learns from this and goes from strength to strength.”