HEAD coach James Ford wants his York City Knights side to ramp up the pressure on Whitehaven when they face off in tomorrow's Kingstone Press League One semi-final.

Home team Haven go into the do-or-die clash (3pm) as big favourites to reach the final, and the omens are also stacked in their favour.

But Ford has noticed a similar mood in the Knights camp to those in the build-up to their shock victories over full-time champions Toronto in the Super 8s and Championship side Rochdale in the Challenge Cup, and he reckons the pressure is all on the home team to get a result.

"They are favourites, definitely," said Ford, for whom reaching the play-offs can already be deemed a success given that the club - bedevilled by crises prior to the successful takeover last December - had to effectively start from scratch on and off the field.

"Whitehaven have beaten us twice and have finished above us in the league as they've been consistently better than we've been through the season from round one. They've had a really good season and finished one place above us.

"That won't count for anything this weekend.

"There are all sorts of pressure on Whitehaven for a variety of reasons.

"They're at home and they're favourites, and there's pressure on them off the field as well. They really need to be getting to the final and getting promoted.

"We're going to add to that pressure."

He added: "I'm really pleased with how we've prepared. Everyone is full of energy and there's a really positive vibe in training.

"The mood is very similar to the preparation for the games against Toronto and Rochdale. I'm excited for the weekend."

The omens suggest York have little chance at The Recre.

Since being re-formed in 2003, the Knights are yet to win in three trips to Whitehaven to date, and historically the club's record in Cumbria as a whole - also taking in fixtures at Barrow and Workington - is poor, with only three wins in 18 visits in all since 2005 (all coming at Worky in 2008 and 2009).

But Ford has shrugged off any talk of a Cumbrian jinx, saying his troops delight in breaking the mould.

"We hadn't beaten Toronto before either," he said, slightly tongue in cheek given the Wolfpack are a new club. "Nobody had beaten them.

"We've done a lot of things people side we couldn't. We take pride and delight in proving people wrong.

"Whitehaven will be favourites but we will be quietly confident of producing a really good performance and hopefully that will be good enough to see us progress."

The team were travelling up today, club chiefs forking out for the players to stay overnight in nearby Workington.

"That's a big help," added Ford. "We want to give ourselves the best opportunity and to do that we wanted to take the travelling out of the equation. It's the first time we've asked the club to do that and, to be fair, Jon Flatman (chairman) has not said no to us very often this year."

Cumbria has seen a lot of rain this week so the pitch is likely to be heavy, with more showers forecast tomorrow. Such conditions could further suit the home team and their big rumbling pack.

But Ford said: "Parts of it will suit us - it's a big wide field so the space will be there.

"We're expecting the conditions to favour Whitehaven, but we've practised a couple of ways playing a style with a wet weather focus.

"There's clarity in how we're setting up to play and I'm excited to see us perform.

"If it turns out dry, we'll play our normal game. If it's wet, we'll play as we've practised. If it's torrential we'll play as we've practised for that. We're covering all bases - that's why we've afforded more time to this game over the last couple of weeks.

"It's a difficult challenge. We'll go there with things against us. That makes the challenge harder but when you're successful it makes it even sweeter."