JAMES FORD is hoping a little bit of extra free rein on the pitch in pre-season will help his York City Knights players develop their own sense of tactical awareness.

Head coach Ford has revealed he has given his team minimal instruction when it comes to opponents' strengths and weaknesses so far this winter.

That will change for league games when the Championship season kicks off in three weeks' time, and indeed the amount of instruction will increase in the two warm-up games remaining, starting with tomorrow's Yorkshire Cup semi-final at Batley Bulldogs (2pm).

But he believes that allowing on-field generals to have a greater degree of command now will help them make the right calls when it really matters.

Ford's explanation came when he was asked about the infamous slope at Batley's Mount Pleasant ground and whether he had tweaked a game plan because of it.

"As we come through our pre-season fixtures we increase the specificity of our match planning," he said.

"Against Bradford (on Boxing Day) we left it to the players. Against Hunslet Parkside (last Saturday) there was a little bit of instruction from us. This week there will be a little bit more instruction.

"We want to develop thinking practitioners, players who can recognise scenarios and adjust tactically. In these games we've given them an opportunity to do that.

"At the same time we want the new players to play with a level of instruction that York players get.

"They will get more instructions, more details, on what we're expecting them to do and how they're going to do it, in the final warm-up game.

"This week, it (those instructions) does take into account the slope, their tactics and their team, but not to a level of a league game. We want players to recognise things themselves and amend things themselves."

He added: "It's not a secret that there's a hill on the field. We will speak about it and we will probably amend one or two things because of it.

"But we will go there and focus on our performance and try to improve on what we produced against Hunslet Parkside, build momentum and combinations and take some positives into next week."

Be it the slope or not, York have a terrible record at Mount Pleasant, losing on all seven visits since being re-formed as the Knights in 2002.

But Ford said: "We're a different team and a different club to the Knights teams that have visited Batley in the past.

"Batley have a positive record at their ground but that does not mean they start with an advantage in this game. It will still start 0-0 like all games and the outcome will be decided by the efforts and performances of the players."

The winners tomorrow go into the final of this pre-season competition next weekend, against Bradford or Dewsbury. The losers play a friendly.

Asked how important the result was, Ford said: "It will be nice for the team to be in the Yorkshire Cup final. It would be nice to put a promising performance together for the supporters and the club.

"But we won't get any league points for winning.

"We can build come momentum and some positive performances."

Batley, who for years have punched above their weight in the Championship, have been coached for the past two seasons by former Leeds, Bradford and Great Britain hooker and ex-Bull boss Matt Diskin.

"They're a good side. Matt Diskin has done a good job," said Ford.

"They do some smart things in good ball and can be deceptive with their halves and full-back. I enjoy how they attack. They have some big fellas in the middle and the back three are good with lots of energy.

"It will be an interesting marker for us, especially away from home and with the personnel we're missing.

"We'll be looking at our performance and certain aspects of performance, and at trying to make sure we keep improving.

"It's part of physical preparations, too, making sure we're ready for the season. There are a few objective boxes to tick."