“ONE of the objectives was to get through without any injuries – we haven’t quite succeeded there.”

So said head coach James Ford with obvious dry understatement after York City Knights lost their Coral Challenge Cup fifth round tie at Widnes Vikings - suffering no fewer than six injuries and ending the game with only 11 men.

Ford had again fielded a much-changed side for the cup, with the Betfred Championship campaign the clear priority. They go to Featherstone on Good Friday, host Widnes in a league rematch on Easter Monday, then fly to France for a clash with Toulouse the following Saturday.

However, with the need to have plenty of bodies fit for the tough period ahead – and despite leaving out nine front-line players for that reason - the Knights have still been left counting the cost of the cup.

Kriss Brining (calf) and Nick Rawsthorne (concussion) departed in the first half of Saturday night’s 44-12 defeat, and first-choice packmen Joe Porter (hip) and new loan signing Jordan Baldwinson (dead leg), along with Mike Kelly (shoulder) and Kevin Brown (concussion), exited in the second.

The only positive, Ford later revealed, is the bulk of the injuries were impact knocks rather than strains, sprains or breaks so may need less recovery time.

It was 22-12 - debutants Baldwinson and Lewis Heckford scoring a try and goal respectively for York - before Widnes notched four tries in the last 14 minutes with York down to 12 then 11 men. Vikings debutant Sam Freeman finished with four tries.

Ford admitted Widnes were deserved victors regardless of injuries - but not necessarily by that scoreline. He also praised the battling spirit in his makeshift line-up.

“Congratulations to Widnes,” said the Knights boss – who had originally signed for York from the Vikings exactly eight years ago.

“The best side won. But I saw in my side a side that kept going to the end despite having six injuries.

“We played the last 15 minutes with 11 men and the five before that with 12. I don't think we had an interchange in the second half.

“I’m proud of the efforts, character and togetherness of my group, despite being a little bit disappointed with one or two aspects of the performance.”

Six injuries in one game is the most the Knights have suffered during Ford’s four and a half years in charge.

“One of the objectives was to get through without any injuries. Unfortunately we haven’t quite succeeded there – we’ve picked up six,” he quipped.

“It’s a challenge for us. We have to get these players recovered and get them ready for the tough period to come.

“We’ve got some people to come back into the side who were rested or rotated (on Saturday). That's a positive. The boys that have picked up knocks are a concern but I’ve got a good support staff and I’m sure they’ll do a good job of getting them ready.

“I thought Widnes were the better side even when it was 13 v 13. But (at 22-12) we were making a good fist of staying in the game with only one half-back (after Brining's exit) and players out of position.

“We had some challenges thrown in there, and Widnes’ class showed more when we went down to 12 then 11. They're a good side with plenty of pace and they moved the ball well and exploited their numerical advantage. Even then people kept turning up for one another.”

Ford said he had “mixed” views of the performance overall.

“Our transitions into defence and some of our contacts could have been better. It’s a detail we’ve generally been pretty good at but on this occasion we were a bit loose. It was Widnes who put us in corners and we found it difficult to get out of there.

“We’ll look to rectify that for Friday.

“It’s always disappointing to lose and it’s even more disappointing to pick up six injuries.

“But I saw some positive individual performances as well as character in the side and a resilience to keep turning up.

“Kev Brown looked hard to handle. Lewis Heckford on debut as a half on his own for 60 minutes did pretty well. Marcus Stock continued to impress and Will Jubb was absolutely outstanding playing the 80 minutes at hooker.

“Jordan Baldwinson was top-drawer until injury.

“There were a couple more decent performances across the side so I was reasonably pleased with a lot of what we did.

“Obviously I’m not happy with the scoreline and there are no excuses but there are factors that contributed to that.

"It's hard to defend a side of Widnes' calibre with 11 players so I'm not going to be overly critical."