JAMES FORD did not blame referee Jack Smith’s big decisions for York City Knights’ second defeat of the Betfred Championship campaign – conceding instead his team did not deserve to win.

The Knights had three tries chalked off by the former Royal Marine as their five-match winning run came to an end in a 24-16 loss at home to Sheffield Eagles, the visitors sealing victory with a minute left.

But Ford reckoned the home team's performance was below standard.

"I think Sheffield deserved to win,” he said. “They’ve performed better than us. We were too loose on play fives and we didn't create enough tempo. Our skill was off, our contacts were off.

“However, I did see a side that, although they were off, were still in a game against a good side for 78-79 minutes. We had chances to win and we never gave up.

"But ultimately we weren't good enough, and we have to give Sheffield credit for that.

"The first half in some ways was high quality in that it was low in errors, but it lacked tempo and we didn’t shape up with the ball as much as we would like.

“We didn’t fight hard enough to get the game to be quicker, but you have to credit Sheffield’s defence for that, and they also handled our shifts pretty well. They were pretty good.

“But, having said that, we had two or three tries ruled out that the boys are pretty confident were tries.”

On those disallowed tries, Ford reasoned: “Will Jubb is one of the most honest kids I’ve come across. He says he scored. Conor (McGrath) is sure he scored from that kick, and Matty Marsh is sure he’s scored from another kick.

“But I remember last year going to London (Skolars) and scoring from a three-metre-forward pass that contributed to us winning the match and winning the league.

“Sometimes things go for you and sometimes they go against you.

“We’re not going to blame the referee. We weren’t good enough and Sheffield were good.

“Defensively we were well down on our standards. It was the first time I've seen a side come through us like that (for Ben Hellewell's two second-half tries set up by Anthony Thackeray). It shouldn’t happen at this level. We should be able to defend that. We’ll be doing some tough work in the week.

"In terms of an arm wrestle, it was a high-quality first half, but the game was slow and our ruck speed was slow. You have to credit Sheffield’s defensive effort - they’ve wrestled the ruck speed out of us and they handled our shapes pretty well. Hats off to Mark Aston and his coaching team - they've done a good job defensively on us.”

A try by debutant McGrath cut the deficit to 18-16 with four minutes to go but Connor Robinson missed the touchline conversion and a mistake under the restart gifted Sheffield the ball back from which Thackeray for the second time created a try for Hellewell.

Ford added: "There's eight points in the game and we've had a couple of tries ruled out. It's fine margins.

"The thing that irritates me is the plays Anthony Thackeray has got us with - we've spent all week looking at it. There will be some tough conversations (in review). It wasn't 'misunderstandings' in defence. It just wasn't good enough."

Thackeray could easily have been sin-binned a few minutes earlier for a professional foul amid a dramatic finale.

Ford said: "I think Liam Finn got sin-binned for the same offence against Sheffield last week for Dewsbury Rams. Sheffield scored in the dying moments to win that game.

“Ultimately you want 13-a-side and the game to be fast. I'm not an advocate of getting blokes sent off or sin-binned. But if it's a sin-binning in one game then it's a sin-binning in the other game. If it's not, it's not, if you see where I'm coming from."

Asked if there were any new injuries, Ford said: "Our pride is a bit dented, and rightly so.

"Sheffield have come here and been better than us. That doesn't happen too often and I don't see it happening frequently in the future."