SCOTT NAYLOR, who has taken Oldham into a four-point lead at the top of the table. Paul March, who has Keighley Cougars firmly in the promotion race in the wake of the Danny Jones tragedy earlier this year. John Duffy, whose Swinton team play some eye-catching rugby. And James Ford himself, whose York City Knights entertainers sit second despite a year of off-field turmoil.

All are clear candidates at this stage of the season for the Kingstone Press League One Coach of the Year award, but who does Ford currently think it should go to?

Answer: Jermaine Coleman, of tomorrow's hosts, London Skolars.

The Londoners sit third bottom in the table and were walloped 74-4 by Swinton last week. However, aside from that mauling by the Lions, Ford reckons the work much-travelled former Knight Coleman has done to improve the Skolars during the year, following the sacking of Joe Mbu in the spring, has been more than commendable.

"If you look at Skolars' DVDs from the start of the season, the transformation from then to now is unbelievable," said Ford of the impact of his fellow rookie coach.

"They got heavily beat last week but Swinton are capable of doing that to a lot of teams in this division. The way Swinton play is hard to coach and hard to do but when it comes off it is very hard to defend against.

"Scott Naylor is going to be up there - Oldham are having a fantastic season - and John Duffy at Swinton plays a fantastic brand of rugby league.

"But taking into account the barriers expansion teams face, Jermaine has gone in there and changed that club dramatically, and it's good rugby league to watch too.

"If I lived down there I would go to watch them.

"The shape and systems Jermaine's brought in are really good. It's all done the right way as well - he conducts himself really professionally, and if he carries on he will have a good future."

That last comment was in stark contrast to the slating Ford gave Oxford's staff after their off-field antics in last week's game at Elmpark Way. He has also criticised some expansion teams' spoiling tactics this season, arguing it is not the best way to promote what should be an entertaining sport.

"I understand it's a difficult job and they're going to want to win just as much as Northern clubs, but if they're going to take the game forward, there's a right and wrong way to go about things and conduct yourself," he reasoned.

Nevertheless, Ford seemingly has respect for all the coaches battling against the odds at expansion clubs, not least at the Skolars, who in some ways have led the way, now being in their 13th season having begun in National League Two the same year the Knights were reborn.

"They have a different player pool and a different starting point in pre-season than clubs in the North, and the remit is probably different," he said.

"They're not challenged to win promotion but to develop the game in their area and be competitive.

"It's a long-term thing for these clubs. I appreciate how difficult it is to run a club when things aren't going as swimmingly as you'd want.

"People like Tom Tsang at Coventry, Mike Grady at South Wales and Jermaine Coleman - who for me is probably Coach of the Year given the way he's turning things round there - are doing really good jobs.

"I don't think these clubs will finish in the top eight (this year) but you have to look at things relatively."

Several of these non-heartland outfits have fewer training sessions together, often with separate sessions for Northern-based and locally-based players in the squad. They also have bigger distances to travel during the course of the year, and very few resources with which to market the sport to unenlightened audiences and bolster crowds, sponsorship, profile and player development in their areas.

"Some of the stuff they do is very difficult mentally as well as physically," added Ford. "They have a lot of barriers that can impact on your preparation and progress and I take my hat off to them."

ANYONE else a little confused with the rulings concerning punching and the inconsistencies with punishments meted out?

Given what we've seen this season, it appears to come down to pot luck.

Jack Aldous was red-carded for slapping Oxford troublemaker Lee Land in the sixth minute of last week's encounter, but in the away match at Gloucestershire All Golds, he had put Brett Scriven on his backside with a crisp right hook and was punished only by a penalty.

Scriven was sent off in the same game for striking Kriss Brining off the ball with the elbow/forearm.

Knights second-row Ed Smith, meanwhile, was shown a yellow card for throwing punches in a melee in the match at South Wales, while earlier in the season Pete Aspinall was sent off for doing likewise in the fixture at Oxford.

Aspinall was given a two-match ban after an early guilty plea, and Smith was given a one-match ban after an early guilty plea. Scriven, meanwhile, got a one-match ban, while Aldous has received no ban at all.

JUST like with his two solo tries in last week's win over Oxford, Greg Minikin will take some catching in the race for The Press Player of the Year accolade.

Minikin's brace last week rubber-stamped a man-of-the-match display in the eyes of both this newspaper and the match sponsors, and the three Player of the Year points the former garners took him six points clear of nearest challenger and July Player of the Month Ed Smith, with five regular season games to go.

Other points winners last week in a stop-start yet battling performance with only 12 men for virtually the entire game were Jack Blagbrough (2pts), who also scored two tries and had to work overtime up front with Jack Aldous sent off, and Pat Smith (1pt), who kept a cool head at hooker, especially when sending Blagbrough over for the match-sealing late try.

Brad Nicholson was the main mover the previous week as our man of the match in the win at Coventry (3pts).

Micky Learmonth (2pts), who also made a notable difference off the bench, not least with one thumping tackle that knocked his opponent into next week, and Jordan Howden (1pt), who filled in with aplomb at full-back, were our other points-winners that day.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Minikin 25pts, E Smith 19, Tonks 14, Brining 12, Nicholson 11, Howden 10, Applegarth 8, Cunningham 8, Haynes 7, Aldous 5, Presley 5, P Smith 5, Morrison 4, Clare 4, B Dent 3, A Dent 2, Blagbrough 2, Learmonth 2, Roche 1, Aspinall 1, Craig 1, Carter 1.