CAPTAIN Tim Spears has suffered a setback in his return from injury - adding to York City Knights' treatment room worries this pre-season.

The veteran loose-forward has not featured so far this winter because of a calf complaint and, while he was due to make his return in Sunday's trip to Batley Bulldogs (2pm), he is now a doubt after picking up a knee problem in training.

It is not thought serious and he is expected to be okay for the start of the Championship campaign on February 3, but it will still put back his and the team's preparations should he again be sidelined this weekend.

Boss James Ford said: "It would be great to be able to include him but, if he's not right, we won't risk making things worse."

Sunday's game is the semi-final of the pre-season Yorkshire Cup competition after which the Knights will have one more warm-up fixture - be it the final or a friendly - before the big kick-off at home to title favourites Toronto Wolfpack.

Ford is already without half a dozen players this weekend in Harry Carter (calf), Ronan Dixon (hip), Jack Blagbrough (ankle), Matt Chilton (knee) and Joe Porter (knee), who have all picked up knocks in the past fortnight, plus Sam Scott (groin), who has been in the treatment room all winter, although all but Scott could be available for Toronto, if not next week.

In better news, playmaker Connor Robinson will be okay to face Batley despite hurting an ankle late on in last week's victory over Hunslet Club Parkside, while second-row Mike Kelly will have his first run of pre-season after overcoming his groin issue.

Nevertheless, while teams are allowed 20-man squads in this county cup competition, Ford will only be able to field 18 on Sunday, or 19 if Spears passes fit.

Ford said of the injury situation: "It's certainly not a position I've intentionally put myself in.

"You've got to play with the hand you're dealt. We've picked up some minor issues. It could be worse - they could be season-long injuries but they're not and we're expecting them back soon."

Ford will again juggle his squad on Sunday and give all his fit players game-time before going with a more "streamlined" line-up in the final pre-season outing.

Perry Whiteley starts on the wing in Ash Robson's stead with Brad Hey coming into the centres. With Spears unlikely to start the game even if fit, Dave Petersen will again be at loose-forward although, with Carter sidelined, he will probably get a run at hooker, too, when Will Jubb is spelled.

Knights (probable): Marsh, Mazive, Bass, Hey, Whiteley, Cockayne, Robinson, Horne, Jubb, Teanby, Kelly, Salter, Petersen. Subs: Robson, Brown, Jordan-Roberts, Stock, Rushworth, Spears.