CAPTAIN marvel Tim Spears has hailed York City Knights' ability to find ways to win games following their latest narrow victory, this time at arch-rivals Hunslet.

Spears was quick to admit the team's performance was below par but the 26-24 result - holding off a fightback after surging 24-0 up - kept them level pegging with Bradford Bulls at the top of Betfred League One with seven wins from eight outings.

It was also the fourth time the Knights had been involved in two-point games this season and, apart from the defeat to a last-ditch penalty against Bradford on the opening day, it was the third time they had come through with the points - something the veteran loose-forward believes underlines their title credentials.

Indeed, he drew parallels with the Featherstone side he captained to top spot in the Championship in four consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2013.

"There was a dip there, without a doubt," said the 33-year-old of the Knights' display.

"But on a positive note, we got the win and I like to think it's becoming a trait in our character.

"We ground our way to a victory even though we didn't play well.

"We also ground out a win at Newcastle, the Keighley game was tight, and we came out the other side in tough games at Oldham and Doncaster.

"Sunday's game should not have been tight so we have to have a good look at ourselves, but we got the points."

Spears reckoned the team might have collectively taken their foot off the gas on Sunday after their 16-minute four-try salvo before the half-hour mark.

That sparkling sequence followed the world record 144-0 romp against whipping boys West Wales Raiders seven days earlier.

"At 24-0 we're cruising again and looking good value for a comprehensive win," he reasoned.

"Obviously things changed and it became a really difficult game.

"Part of that is us, and we will have a look at that this week. But you have to credit Hunslet as well. That's the best Hunslet team I've seen for some time and they made a fist of it.

"We've got to be honest - we're a team with genuine title aspirations and three quarters (of that performance) was not good enough to deliver what we want to deliver.

"There are probably reasons for that - but not excuses.

"The game last week and how fluid we were and, no disrespect (to West Wales), but the limited challenge posed by the opposition - it's almost been a training exercise.

"To then go to a tough Hunslet team on a little field, a team who want to get into us and knock us off our perch. That step up is a challenge in itself."

Spears admitted complacency "potentially" played a part.

"Things were going well - winning 144-0 then going 24-0 up," he explained.

"I don't like to think there's complacency in us but we're all human so possibly subconsciously there was some element of taking our foot off the gas.

"It's a lesson for everyone. Just dropping off five or 10 per cent collectively across the board makes a big difference when there's not much between the teams.

"We ended up in a bit of trouble and we had to fight hard."

Asked if the Parksiders' comeback had him worried, Spears said: "I was a bit nervous. Hunslet pushed us really hard and you do recognise when you're not playing well. It's hard to flip that round and get momentum back. It was frustrating as well.

"It was pretty obvious what was happening. We gave them too many seven-tackle sets by kicking the ball dead - on a short field that's not the smartest. We gave penalties away and made uncharacteristic errors. Throw in a bit of softness and it's a bad recipe, especially in energy-sapping conditions.

He added: "We all had to rally round and work hard to find a way to win.

"Sometimes you have to do that - and champion teams do that. They find a way to win when not playing well.

"It's something we had at Featherstone. It's a sign of good team."

The Knights next go to Coventry Bears on Saturday, in the game rearranged from earlier in the year.

Asked if he'd have preferred to have the weekend off, Spears said: "I want to play every minute of every game, and play every week.

"You want to play all the time, especially in the latter part of your career, and particularly this year - I'm loving it. It's a great team and a great group.

"To be fair, we've got maybe not a few wrongs to put right but a need to get back to where we want to be. It's a good opportunity to fix up some failings of this week.

"About having a breather, I don't think it's the right time. We had an easy one against West Wales and some blokes sat that one out altogether so fatigue won't be an issue. I want to play and do a thorough and comprehensive job."