YORK City Knights are still seeking that elusive away victory against play-off rivals in League One after their winning sequence ended with a 34-12 defeat to leaders Oldham.

James Ford's men, despite losing Press Player of the Year front-runner Greg Minikin to a hamstring injury, led 12-6 at half-time and thought they had extended that advantage when big Jack Blagbrough drove straight and hard, pushing men back to plant the ball on the whitewash.

But referee Dave Merrick ruled the replacement prop had been held up and within five minutes, Oldham were level.

Thereafter the Knights saw victory hopes slip further away with each slip-up in possession as the Roughyeds, relishing the fact that the heavens had opened, played a solid, tough, one-up style down the middle to eventually open the floodgates too, three tries in the last ten minutes taking them clear.

The result saw the Knights, who had risen to third following an unbeaten June record which included home wins over fellow promotion hopefuls Rochdale and Swinton, drop back to fifth, hanging on to the last play-off spot on points-difference only.

The Knights had been largely error-free in the first half, barring an early mistake by Ben Dent for which they were made to pay.

The full-back took in a high kick from Lewis Palfrey under pressure near his own line but was immediately tackled by the onrushing attackers and the ball fell loose, to be touched down by Danny Langtree.

Palfrey's conversion took him past 500 points for the Roughyeds.

The visitors regrouped, though, and – aided by big tackles forcing knock-ons and by Oldham having trouble cleaning up bobbling kicks – built pressure.

Reward soon came as Brad Nicholson took an inside pass, looked for the offload but realised he could get over the whitewash himself, Dent converting.

Sam Gee then booted the restart out on the full to give York a free attack. Jordan Howden's kick was then spilled by the defence, swept up by York and given to Mark Applegarth, who barged over for his first try of the season.

Dent's second conversion made it 12-6 on 14 minutes.

The scoreline clearly displeased the Lancashire gods as, out of nowhere, the wind picked up, the summer sun disappeared behind dark clouds and heavy rains soon followed - making life hard for players and spectators alike at this ramshackle ground.

The game duly turned into a battle for territory and the upper hand, both defences holding firm until the interval, despite half-chances at either end.

The first came Oldham's way but, with winger Adam Clay in a bit of space tight to the touchline, Langtree's pass flew straight out of play.

At the other end, a low Howden kick was again fluffed by the home rearguard but York too knocked-on when a third try looked certain.

York were edging it but the second half was to have Oldham with the slope and wind advantage.

The Knights continued where they had left off. The game was physical, as Ford had expected, but his side were giving as good if not better than they got.

But then came the turning point of Blagbrough's try that wasn't.

York soon had an escape at the other end – Merrick deemed Nev Morrison had knocked on at a play-the-ball and Jake Connor got over the whitewash in the attack that followed, only for a tough judge to deem he had fumbled when touching down.

But Morrison's mistake was to be just the first of many by York as several players ruined what had hitherto been good copybooks with spills and uncharacteristic handling errors – James Clare, Howden and Josh Tonks among them.

In mitigation, the ball was by now very slippy, while fatigue may also have been a factor.

Oldham, having struggled to clean up low kicks themselves in the first half, played on that same tactic too on the sodden, greasy turf.

One such kick led to consternation in the defence and, from the play-the-ball, Michael Ward blasted over to equalise.

When Dent knocked on as he skidded past another low grubber, Oldham profited again as, from the scrum, second-row Josh Crowley drew in the defence out wide and deftly gave the ball through the back door to winger Jack Holmes.

With neither side making line breaks, Oldham, under Palfrey's orders, persisted with the same basic tactics that had garnered them the lead and it paid off again as Phil Joy barged over with ten minutes to go to make it 22-12.

There was no way back for York, especially when Crowley – now in his element – skipped a tackle to score.

Dent then departed with a head injury suffered in a collision which forced another spill and, with York having used up their interchanges, the visitors played the last five minutes with 12 men.

They conceded a sixth try as Gee's super offload gave Crowley an easy second, Palfrey adding his fifth conversion.



Oldham: Gee, Clay, Robinson, Connor, Holmes, Palfrey, Hewitt, Joy, Owen, Neal, Langtree, Crowley, Thompson. Subs (all used): Mason, Files, Hughes, Ward.

Tries: Langtree 5; Ward 55; Holmes 63; Joy 70; Crowley 73, 77.

Conversions: Palfrey 5, 55, 70, 73, 77.

Knights: B Dent 5, Clare 6, Channing 6, Minikin 6, Morrison 6, Howden 6, Presley 6, Applegarth 7, P Smith 6, Aldous 7, E Smith 7, Tonks 6, Nicholson 7. Subs (all used): Brining 5, Cunningham 6, Blagborough 6, Mallinder 7.

Tries: Nicholson 12; Applegarth 15.

Conversions: B Dent 12, 15.

Man of the match: Brad Nicholson – some big hit-ups and hits, allied to a decent work-rate, were rewarded with a try which helped to give York the upper hand in the first half.

Referee: Dave Merrick (Castleford) – pretty good, though the decision to rule out Jack Blagbrough's apparent try was a big one.

Penalty count: 5-7.

Half-time: 6-12.

Weather: the game began in blazing heat but from nowhere the wind picked up, dark clouds arrived and the last 65 minutes was played out in heavy rain.

Attendance: 581.

Moment of the match: prop Mark Applegarth got his first try of the season and, while it mattered little come full-time, it at least means he won't have to do the notorious naked run for going through a campaign without scoring.

Gaffe of the match: several errors in the last half-hour helped Oldham to start a number of sets in good field position and it paid on the scoreboard.

Gamebreaker: York still had a sniff when 16-12 behind but, with Oldham having the momentum, they really needed to turn things back around and score next. Instead, home prop Phil Joy barged over and, with ten minutes left, it never looked like there would be a way back for James Ford's men.

Match rating: the rain probably played into Oldham's hands as, in a tough contest with no line breaks or discernible running rugby, they – and in particular their strong pack – showed why they have lost only once at Whitebank in the last two seasons.