HEAD coach James Ford is "not concerned in the slightest" by York City Knights' recent downturn in results - insisting they are still punching above their weight.

The Knights, having opened the Championship season with five wins from six games, have since lost three of the last five and been knocked out of the Challenge Cup.

However, they remain in the top half of the table ahead of tomorrow's visit of Batley Bulldogs, with a game in hand too, and Ford is backing his troops to bounce back from their unlucky loss in Toulouse last weekend - and continue to "surprise a few people" following their promotion last year.

Of those recent defeats, Ford said: "We've lost to who? Featherstone, Toulouse and Widnes in the Challenge Cup. No, I'm not concerned in the slightest.

"We performed really well against Toulouse. Fev were better than us on the day. Widnes was in the cup wasn't it.

"We haven't lost many games this season and we're in the top half.

"I'm aware expectations have risen but I don't think anybody would have expected us to go to Toulouse and win, apart maybe from ourselves in the group."

York's last three defeats have all come away from home, punctured by a comeback victory over Widnes at Bootham Crescent.

Batley, meanwhile, have enjoyed an upturn of three straight league wins prior to last weekend's loss to Leigh, having opened the season with only one win from eight.

Ford added: "I'm not sure that many people at the start of the season would be expecting us to beat Batley.

"Historically they've been right up on the cusp of the play-offs and one of the best part-time teams in the country.

"We won't underestimate them at all. We know we will have to play to our very best to have a chance.

"There won't be one person (in the Knights camp) who will be underestimating this Batley team and the size of the task we face on Sunday."

On that note, Ford believes Batley to be a club the Knights - despite having one of the lowest budgets in the Championship - could look to emulate in the near future.

He reasoned: “They’re a top half of the table pushing the play-offs Championship side and have been for a long time.

“They were under John Kear and they are under Disko (coach Matt Diskin). They have lots of Championship experience. They’ve shown they can beat anyone.

“Our first objective is to stay up and the second is to be around sides like Batley. We’re not there yet.

“We’re looking at sides like Batley and aspiring to get to their level.

“It will be a tough challenge and it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“Featherstone and Halifax are part-time and they’ve probably shaded Batley over recent years but Batley have had their days, they’ve had their moments.

“They’re a very good club, consistently in the top half."

Meanwhile, Ford has played down concerns his team might face fatigue or a comedown following their recent hectic schedule.

He reasoned: "There's always that possibility, but Batley and Rochdale, who we play the week after, have been in similar schedules to us, so it's not going to be an excuse for us.

"We're bitterly disappointed not to get the win at Toulouse and we need to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance of taking the two league points this weekend."

On last weekend's trek to south France, Ford quipped: "It could be worse - we could be coming back from Toronto, like Swinton.

"The boys spent some quality time with one another and I saw plenty of togetherness on the trip, including the blokes in the squad who didn't play (in the match) but who played a full part.

"Hopefully we can use it as a platform for the rest of the season."