JAMES FORD insisted he had no regrets over his team selection after York City Knights lost their 1895 Cup quarter-final amid late drama at Bootham Crescent.

He also said he had rarely been as happy after a defeat, given the way his fringe players performed.

The Knights, having trailed Batley Bulldogs 16-8 with six minutes left, drew level with a converted Will Jubb try followed by a nerveless long-range penalty from Connor Robinson after the final hooter had sounded.

But Batley won the tie early in stoppage time thanks to a Louis Jouffret drop goal, to go through to the last four, just 80 minutes away from a trip to Wembley.

Knights boss Ford had made nine changes to the side that beat Swinton on Sunday to go joint-second on points in the Betfred Championship, including giving a first start at this level for former York Acorn amateur Matt Chilton after nearly seven months in the treatment room.

There could be just as many changes for Sunday's league game at home to Dewsbury.

Asked if he regretted resting so many of his big guns, Ford declared: "No.

"Some of the younger younger boys were tremendous. They've just gone toe to toe with a mid-table Championship side, with only one player anywhere near 30 years old and with a few playing their first games in a long time at this level, if ever.

"It's easy for me to say the league is the priority, but I picked a side I felt was good enough to win this game. They weren't far away. We we level after 80 minutes even with a couple of decisions going against us, and we will learn from it."

Ford said he was "really proud" of his young players.

"For some it was a first game in a long time, even a first against Championship opposition, and we were pretty good apart from in one area," he reasoned.

"We completed well, we kicked well, our detail in defence was good and when we got our shape right we created opportunities. We just struggled with our final execution.

"But that's to be expected a little bit given there were new combinations. We had our opportunities to win the game and we weren't far away against a decent Championship side.

"I often speak after a win and say we could have been better at this or that. This is the happiest I've been after a loss in a long time. We did a lot of tremendous work and a lot of players have furthered their reputations."

On his team's deficiencies, he added: "We spoke about reacting to opportunities - to three v twos, three v threes - and we do need to work on that, but we will do.

"I'm very happy with the vast majority if not all of what a lot of the players have contributed.

"Harry Carter came back in and looked sharp, Marcus Stock was sensational (at loose-forward), Will Oakes came back in and was strong, Brad Hey worked his socks off, and Liam Salter backed up from Sunday with another 80 minutes.

"Yes one or two need to improve but they certainly weren't poor."

Ford had argued that a few of his first-choice side were injured with others requiring a rest, and that bringing in fresh and eager players was right for this game. He also said this defeat will help the youngsters in the long run.

"You don't learn everything in life or in sport from only positives," he reasoned. "Some boys will be heartbroken but that's good - they will learn from one or two things and they will endeavour to be better. I have faith in all of them.

"Just think where we were two and half years ago compared to where we are now. Their journey has been miraculous and it's not quite finished."

Local lad Chilton only played five times in League One at the end of last season after joining from the amateur game. On the 22-year-old's bow at Championship level, playing in the key full-back position, Ford said: "He was safe and he got the numbers right. But there's certainly a lot to work on. Our combinations on the edges weren't quite up there, although that's understandable - he's only been back in training two weeks and this was first game at this level.

"He's still a very young boy and he's got a lot of potential. Part of his journey includes getting criticism - and he will respond positively."