YORK Knights boss Andrew Henderson hopes to be able to build some continuity within his side as they look to edge themselves away from the Betfred Championship relegation zone.

Henderson has so far been unable to name a settled side, reflected in a poor record that has seen them win just once across the league campaign thus far – last month’s 25-14 victory against Bradford Bulls.

Despite an abject defeat to Whitehaven that saw him issue a rare apology to the club’s supporters a fortnight ago, the head coach believes that there have been encouraging signs from his side – something that he hopes will only increase as continuity builds.

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He admitted: “I know the team hasn’t been consistent in terms of the selection of it each week. We’ve had to roll out there with who is available and who we think is the best fit for that position that week.

“It’s not an excuse from my side of things – but it doesn’t help that there’s a lot of disruption. A number of players are playing out of position and are having to do a job, but that doesn’t excuse some of the performance levels we’ve seen.

“But we’ve seen some encouraging signs as well throughout this period and I don’t think we’re far off. We’ve got to hold onto that competitive spirit, tidy up a few areas with the ball and defensively, and I do believe we can turn a corner. 

“I’m hoping that maybe in the next coming weeks we can start to get a little bit of continuity within the playing group and really start to settle it down and get some cohesion.

“I’m just hoping that we don’t have to keep moving the pieces around every week, which has been a theme, let’s be honest, from the start of the cup games into the season and up to now.”

York Press: Full-back Will Dagger will serve his one-match suspension against Halifax this weekend.Full-back Will Dagger will serve his one-match suspension against Halifax this weekend. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative/York RLFC)

The Knights will be hoping that Sunday’s match against Halifax Panthers (3pm) will turn around their Championship fortunes for the second successive season – with last year’s fixture kickstarting a run of 10 wins from 11 matches that saw them sneak into the play-offs on the final day of the regular campaign.

Will Dagger is unavailable amid the punishment for his dissent sin-bin against Whitehaven, but despite knocks to captain Liam Harris and Kiwi playmaker Nikau Williams potentially threatening another half-back headache, Henderson’s troops are slowly but surely making their ways back into contention.

One of those in line to return this weekend is Australian centre Jesse Dee, who returns to the Knights' preliminary squad, having not featured in over a month after tearing his bicep.

Youngsters Charlie Severs and Harvey Reynolds are amongst those to have partnered Jimmy Keinhorst during his absence, whilst Tom Lineham was also handed a first start in the position in their AB Sundecks 1895 Cup semi-final defeat to Sheffield Eagles last weekend – with AJ Towse making what had seemed an overdue return to the wing.

York Press: Australian centre Jesse Dee is in line to return against Halifax after a bicep tear.Australian centre Jesse Dee is in line to return against Halifax after a bicep tear. (Image: Craig Hawkhead Photography)

A combination of injury and suspension has seen Dee feature six times for the Knights this season, with Henderson confident that his return will provide a “big boost” for his side.

“Jesse is looking good as potentially being available this week,” he confirmed.

“We’ve just got to get through the last couple of markers that he needs to hit, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be back available for us this week.”

Last weekend also marked Brenden Santi’s first match in two months after a calf strain, with the head coach “really pleased” to have seen the Italian prop come through a physical semi-final unscathed.

Fellow front-rower Ukuma Ta’ai is also in contention to feature against Halifax, despite facing a head injury assessment during their defeat to the Eagles.

“He passed his HIA, so he’ll be fine and available,” Henderson explained.

“We’ve come through for me fairly unscathed. Obviously we did have a couple of players carrying knocks into the game. I have to assess those guys and make some calls on them this week, whether we push them back out again or not.

“But that’s where we are at the moment.”