YORK City Knights were third on points-difference going into their rearranged match at struggling Rochdale. With nobody else in Championship action this weekend, they are now third alone.

The victory, by 24-18, wasn’t nearly as easy as it should have been, though, the error-strewn Knights giving a terribly scrappy performance against the bottom-of-the-table team and, like at home to Batley last week, having to hold on after building a seemingly comfortable lead.

Rochdale have won only once this term, many of their defeats being heavy, but new boss Matt Calland has clearly reinvigorated them in his short time in charge.

That said, the Knights gave them more leg-ups than they have enjoyed all season, with handling errors and penalties aplenty. Whenever the visitors came up with a good play, a good individual moment, it was generally followed by a sloppy one.

Indeed, boss James Ford struggled to find any positives afterwards. In fact he acted like his side had been hammered, not won and gone up to third.

He had a point. A performance anything like this next week will surely bring a Summer Bashing from Featherstone.

The other issue, however, is the lack of numbers he has to call on – the injury list growing not only ahead of this game, Ronan Dixon pulling out in the warm-up, but also during it as fellow prop Jordan Baldwinson limped out early on.

The fact York had only two out-and-out props for nearly 70 minutes is a bit of mitigation for the display.

Ford had made two other enforced changes to the side that hung on against Batley, with on-loan half-back Cain Southernwood and prop star Graeme Horne also sidelined.

Joe Porter was at least fit to return to the pack while a reshuffle in the backs saw Brad Hey come in at centre and Jason Bass switch to full-back allowing Matty Marsh to move up to stand-off.

Second-row Mike Kelly replaced Dixon on the bench.

Rochdale coach Calland, who replaced Carl Forster 10 days ago following their awful start to the season, rang changes.

Jack Johnson, like packman Luis Johnson, was available on dual-reg from Warrington and started at full-back.

Calland also brought in young outside-backs Reece Hamlett and James Worthington on loan from Wigan, and started utility Lewis Sheridan at half-back and another new recruit Michael Coleman on the bench.

Sheridan partnered running threat Dan Abram in the halves, with Scott Moore moving to hooker and Ben Moores to loose-forward.

After the farce of the call-off in March, this game started 15 minutes late too due to the late arrival of a video cameraman. The players were only told after their warm-up, and then had to warm-up again.

The travelling fans, who had made the journey over the Pennines two months ago, were not impressed.

Their team’s performance was similarly awry, summed up probably by Bass, who alternated good and bad moments from the off.

He had an early let-off when sloppily conceding a 40-20, with Rochdale having a resultant try through winger Brandon Wood disallowed as the cut-out pass was forward.

Abram then did kick a 40-20 to continue early pressure.

However, in York’s first attack, they took the lead – and it was Bass who made it, breaking through down the inside right before feeding Marsh on his inside.

Connor Robinson’s goalkicking was also hit and miss – he booted this one but missed three of five.

Bass went close again in the next attack, only to be shepherded into touch, with York suffering a blow in back play as Baldwinson limped off.

After a Marsh kick brought at error from the hosts, the other starting prop, Jack Teanby, drove close – setting the platform for try number two.

York spread the ball left where Bass joined the line and had a diagonal run to the corner.

Bass was involved again in the third try, after a Perry Whiteley surge had taken play upfield.

The full-back fed Hey who fed Judah Mazive, the winger bumping off the tackler to touchdown by the right flag.

Was it all too easy?

Rochdale had struggled for breaks but hit back on 27 minutes with a slice of fortune as a Moore grubber kick ricocheted straight to Sheridan, who scored, Abram goaling.

The Hornets immediately looked livelier but were still struggling defensively.

Bass duly got his second try almost with a carbon copy of his first, though this took a little more scoring.

York looked comfortable at 18-6 up, but not so.

Like in the first half, a York error, this time by Mazive, handed Rochdale early encouragement, followed by a penalty conceded by skipper Tim Spears.

York continued to look ragged, a fumble by Whiteley inviting further pressure.

The inevitable came on 53 minutes as a flat ball brought a close-range try for Liam Carberry, Abram goaling to cut the deficit to one score.

Up step Robinson with a key moment.

A dummy and go in centre-field took him through a big gap and Jack Blagbrough had a tap-in.

However, whenever York threatened to go up a gear, they slipped back down one or two.

It was highlighted when Liam Salter broke upfield on an intercept only for the ball to go to ground in the resultant attack.

The contest remained scruffy, with more scrappy handling handing the hosts another attack. Mazive just beat opposite number Brandon Wood to an Abram kick to the corner but, from the dropout, Wood did score.

It appeared Mazive and Hey had bulldozed him into touch but, to the disbelief of the travelling fans, the try was given, Abram’s touchline conversion making it 24-18 with 10 minutes to go.

Robinson shaped for a drop goal to ease the pressure but was closed down. Instead he sent a grubber which was fumbled. Marsh scored but the try which would have eased concerns was ruled out for offside.

Instead, the Hornets pressed again.

Mazive came off his wing to force a fumble from centre Jordan Case.

Then Abram went for a 40-20. Bass just kept the ball infield but in doing so knocked it in-goal. With hearts in mouths, the full-back touched the ball down a split second before the onrushing Abram.

A penalty for a late tackle on Moore brought the Hornets one last chance.

The tackles came in, the hooter sounded. York had survived.