HEAD coach James Ford has hailed the increased squad strength at York City Knights - as highlighted by the calibre of players sat in the stands on Sunday.

Props Graeme Horne, Jordan Baldwinson and Ronan Dixon, back-row Sam Scott, stand-off Ben Cockayne, centre Liam Salter and winger Ash Robson were all nursing injuries as their team-mates saw off Newcastle Thunder in the 1895 Cup second round at Bootham Crescent.

All seven would arguably be first-choice players if fully fit.

Furthermore, hooker Harry Carter, wingers Judah Mazive and Perry Whiteley, second-row/centre Brad Hey and packman Dave Petersen - all with their fair share of first-team action - were also left out and will be scrapping for shirts, while on-loan prop Harry Aldous was not allowed to play against his parent club.

Adding in rookie Matt Chilton, himself a long-term crock, that means an entire 13-man team plus one sub were on the sidelines at the weekend.

Baldwinson and Robson remain out for some time but Horne, Scott and Salter could well be rested up enough for Saturday's mouthwatering third-v-second clash with Toulouse Olympique, and both Dixon and Cockayne are nearing returns from injury.

Ford is duly awaiting some even bigger selection headaches.

"Twenty-seven league games is an immense challenge, plus two cup competitions on top," he said.

"You need a quality squad. It's not just about the 17 that get selected. It's about the squad, not just in matches but in terms of competition for places and driving standards in training.

"Just around the corner we will be in a situation of having a healthy squad all pushing for places and all being good enough to play."

Meanwhile, Ford lauded the impact of his four substitutes in Sunday's cup victory, with interchange hooker Kriss Brining scoring a try and making one, and packmen Joe Porter, Jack Blagbrough and Leeds loanee Tyler Dupree all enjoying good spells.

"That's the role of the interchange," said Ford. "You come on and you take the intensity up and try to swing the momentum of the game.

"On occasions this year our bench has come on and done the opposite so I'm really pleased with their impact.

"I thought Tyler carried the ball really well and some small details in defence, where he retreated quickly and got up and set the line speed for us, were really impressive for a young, big fella.

"Ports always comes on and gives us his all, and there's still another level in Kriss. He looked sharp at times but there's another level or so within him and when we can get him firing on all cylinders - and we will at some point - our interchanges will be a real handful.

"Jack has a strong carry, he makes good metres after contact and he gets decent ruck speed, and I'm really pleased with how he's striving to be better."