YORK City Knights boss James Ford said in the build-up to the visit of Batley that his club should be “aspiring to get to the Bulldogs’ level”.

Well, judging by this result and the respective league placings, his battling team are more than making a good fist of it.

Batley have been one of the best part-time sides in the land for a number of years, regularly punching above their weight, safely sat in the Championship and sometimes pushing for the play-offs.

This season, though, that baton has been taken on by Ford's men - and they were at it again here, winning 28-24 to make it eight victories for the campaign and rise back up to joint-third in the table.

However, they had to dig deep to withstand a late comeback, having led 22-10 and 28-14 only for the Bulldogs to have much more energy in the last quarter.

Indeed that final period should maybe act as a warning sign that more bodies are needed for the Knights to continue their remarkable form.

The players' recent toils have seemingly taken their toll, made harder, of course, by a growing injury list - props Jack Teanby and Graeme Horne departing this game early to add to the concerns.

Sam Scott had been the latest to join the injured list in the week, being replaced in the 17 by fit-again Josh Jordan-Roberts.

Both Tim Spears and Horne passed fit to return to the pack, Dave Petersen and Brad Hey dropping out. Horne, though, was not fully firing and his early exit was perhaps not a surprise.

Jason Bass was given the nod over Hey to continue in the centres - and it proved a good call with the former Coventry man lifting himself again to give a man-of-the-match display - while Hunslet loanee Cain Southernwood made his home debut against his former club. He came up with one key play to create a crucial try on the half-time hooter.

Former Knight Wayne Reittie, injured, was replaced on the Batley wing by Lewis Galbraith, while Alex Bretherton also returned to the Bulldogs pack.

York had an early let-off when Judah Mazive was unable to take a huge bomb, only for Batley to be deemed offside.

A penalty the other way was then countered as Connor Robinson forced an error and sent Perry Whiteley streaking to half-way where he too was fouled.

Robinson then put a little grubber in goal, Bulldogs hooker Alistair Leak failed to knock it dead and home full-back Matty Marsh pounced. Robinson added his first of four conversions.

Scott then spilt a steepling Robinson bomb at the end of York’s next set but the Knights, having spread the ball left then right, were denied a second try when winger Mazive was just unable to touch down in the corner after brilliantly picking up a pass.

Instead, Batley struck back.

Mazive challenged for a chip to the corner by Dom Brambani but the ball squirmed away in goal and opposite winger Jonny Campbell touched it down.

This was an open game, York scoring on the back of another Batley error.

Galbraith looked confident under a kick but suddenly shifted his stance and fumbled the ball. The defence was on him in a flash and Liam Salter picked up the ball then popped it up for Robinson on the rush to the left corner.

A flowing move then ended with a foolish penalty for holding down on the last tackle and the Bulldogs were made to pay.

Again the try came from a little Robinson grubber which the defence should have dealt with – instead Marcus Stock pounced.

York had another try ruled out when off-the-cuff football from second-row Stock and Marsh ended with the latter just knocking on when trying to collect the bouncing ball.

Marsh’s handling was then severely tested at the other end by a spiralling Brambani bomb.

He failed to take it and, from the attacking scrum, the visitors scored, on-loan Hull prop Lewis Bienek barrelling over.

However, York replied thanks to a fine, speedy set.

Southernwood made it, slipping through a tackle just as the hooter sounded before feeding sub Ronan Dixon to crash in under the posts for a 22-10 interval lead.

Batley remained a threat on the resumption, Brambani’s high kicks a good piece of armoury.

They won a close-range penalty underneath one of them after a game of hot potato and Sam Wood tried to dig into the corner from the tap, but Mazive and Bass were wise to it and the centre put an elbow in touch as Jordan-Roberts joined in the tackle.

Robinson missed the chance to put York three scores up when sending a 35-metre penalty wide on 53 minutes.

Instead, referee Greg Dolan angered home fans when failing to penalise James Brown for a late hit on Southernwood – the second of the game - and then when giving the visitors back-to-back penalties.

Batley duly hit back as winger Campbell, after standing up Mazive in the corner, had too much strength for him and cut the deficit to 22-14 just before the hour.

Dolan endeared himself a little more when awarding a knock-on against Campbell in the next set when the winger tried to buy a penalty for interference at a ruck – the new ruling coming into play.

The attacking set ended with Will Jubb, back on at hooker, digging in on the last tackle.

Robinson’s conversion, allied to Scott’s earlier miss, gave the hosts that three-score advantage - which proved vital as Batley would not go away.

From a penalty, Bienek got through some weak tackles for his second try, Scott’s goal making it 28-20.

A huge tackle by Bass curtailed their next attack and, while a 40-20 from French half-back Louis Jouffret gave them another platform, Bass and co forced another error.

But the right-side defence was powerless to prevent a Bretherton try which cut the gap to 28-24 with seven minutes to go, after Scott and Campbell, then Brown, had broken tackles early in the set to leave the defence stretched.

Batley, with Brown and ex-Knight Sam Smeaton to the fore, then came within inches of completing the comeback when Brambani’s grubber went dead just before Scott touched it down.

There was still time, but Whiteley dealt under pressure with another Brambani 'Hail Mary'.

Then, with everyone on the York bench looking up at the timekeepers as the Bulldogs attacked again, the hooter sounded and the defence held out.