YORK City Knights boss James Ford is hopeful star man Liam Harris will recover in time to play in next week’s play-off semi-final – despite seeing him helped off after being knocked out by a late high challenge in the last game of the Super 8s.

He has also called on Rugby Football League chiefs to come down hard on Dan Parker for the foul, the Newcastle Thunder winger having escaped with only a yellow card on the pitch.

Harris needed lengthy treatment midway through the second half of the Knights’ 26-24 defeat – a result which made no difference to Ford’s fourth-placed team but saw Newcastle nick the last play-off berth in Kingstone Press League One.

It confirmed York will go to Whitehaven in the play-offs, with Newcastle visiting Barrow.

“Liam has not got the concussion protocol to follow but we will do what we can to get him available,” said Ford.

“I don’t think he’s concussed, which is a miracle because it’s one the worst things I’ve seen for a long time.

“Liam’s passed the ball, he’s relaxed, he’s not looking and he (Parker) has hit him high and late. It’s really disappointing.

“There was definite maliciousness in it, against one of the most promising young players outside Super League.”

Harris, along with team-mate Ash Robson, will find out tomorrow night (Monday) if either is the League One Young Player of the Year, with Ford likewise shortlisted for Coach of the Year at the Kingstone Press awards ceremony in Manchester.

Ford added: “The game has got a responsibility to protect these players. People like Liam Harris and Lewis Young for Newcastle are players the supporters pay to come and watch. They excite people.

“When something like that occurs, the game needs to stamp down on it.

“If they don’t and my players don’t run in and defend Liam, I will be asking them why.”

Referee John McMullen was unsighted so did not see how and where Parker made contact with Harris and gave a yellow card only for a late tackle after speaking to his touch judges.

Ford, though, saw it clearly from his vantage point.

“It was a disgraceful tackle,” he said. “It’s a straight red all day long.

“He’s hit him late, high and with a shoulder charge. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

The Knights also lost Adam Swift at the end of the game to what could be a severe leg injury, the young centre being stretchered off.

“Adam’s had a tough time,” said Ford. “He’s played away at (top three) Toronto, Whitehaven and Barrow and this was his first game at home. Again he looked good in tough conditions.

“We’re not sure what the injury is – he’s going for an X-ray and possibly a scan and we’ll have more information then.”

Ford said he had no complaints about McMullen’s performance, other than the colour of the card.

“He’s not seen it and he’s relying on the rest of his team and he has to go with what they say. But it was a straight red every day of the week.”

Meanwhile, Ford reckoned the match, in the context of York’s promotion challenge, was a good exercise - barring the injuries.

He said: “The result hasn’t changed anything for us. Some players have got minutes that will stand them in good stead and we gave some players an opportunity to recover from a few knocks.

“This was always about preparing for the semi-final and we’ve done that, although we have picked up a couple of knocks.

“Newcastle kicked the ball better and their performance was probably more grindy than ours. That’s something we’ll look at.

“It’s about territory, keeping the ball in their 20 and being willing to score an ugly try. They scored two from dummy-half and one from a miss-read in defence. There was a shift in our mentality in the second half, and that’s something we will develop.

“Newcastle’s season was on the line. You could see that and fair play to them. But there wasn’t too much between the teams.

“Some of our players hadn’t played an awful lot of rugby recently and we have six, seven or eight potentially coming back in next week. Coming up with an error, a miss-read or lapse in concentration can maybe happen.

“But we showed desire and solidarity again. At 20-6 down in what for us was a dead rubber, the boys still found reason to hang in there and really trouble Newcastle come the back end.

“That’s another good thing – we got some practice at chasing a game in these (wet) conditions. The game served a purpose for us.”