YORK City Knights aren’t half doing it tough this season.

After tight, thrilling games against title favourites Bradford and Oldham were both decided by only two points, their match at table-toppers Doncaster once again went down to the wire, with only a goal in it in the final shake-up.

And, like at Oldham, it was James Ford’s troops who came out on top, winning 16-14, to lay down yet another marker for their Betfred League One campaign.

Doncaster, red hot so far this term, have been racking up the points but they were restricted here to just two tries, both from kicks, as the Knights’ defence – both its structure and via the players’ sheer graft - yet again took the plaudits.

Initially their aggression knocked the Dons off their stride but the defensive effort was never more to the fore than in the final quarter when the hosts, aided by penalties, dropouts and a couple of 50-50 calls, piled on the pressure.

By that point, York had gleaned an eight-point lead, and the hosts could only muster one more touchdown.

The Knights' decisions, twice, to go for goal with penalties were ultimately vindicated, therefore, as Connor Robinson - whose kicking game has improved out of sight this term - ended with a 100 per cent record.

Victory was achieved despite Ford having to make five changes to the 17 that beat Keighley.

Captain marvel Tim Spears and Player of the Year Joe Batchelor provided boosts by passing fitness tests but, conversely, Brad Hey damaged a groin in training and failed his pre-match test.

Full-back Ash Robson was already out injured while loan prop Colton Roche was kept back by parent club Huddersfield, and Ford had no dual-reg players to call on either.

However, veteran hooker Andy Ellis was back and Aaron Smith, as Ellis’ interchange, made his debut on loan from St Helens, allowing Will Jubb to fill in at second-row, in turn allowing Batchelor to take Hey’s central role.

Smith was steady in the first half and some good runs out of dummy-half helped York get on the front foot in the third quarter - and notch their all-important second try.

Veteran winger Tommy Saxton made his first appearance of the season, but it lasted only half a match due to a back spasm.

Packmen Ronan Dixon, fit again, and Joe Porter came onto the bench and both played their part in the team effort. Half-back Liam Jackson was omitted.

For Doncaster, ex-Castleford full-back Richard Owen was back from his ban and powerful centre Jason Tali from injury, but the dangerous Charlie Martin, prop Ryan Boyle and half-backs Jordan Howden and Jack Miller were out, while French playmaker Hakim Miloudi, the Hull dual-reg starlet, was also not available.

York had a couple of early sets in the home half but Doncaster had the first real chance, only Tali patted Liam Harris’ ball on a forward angle to his winger, Jack Sanderson, and the try was ruled out.

The Dons also got a sizeable advantage 13 minutes into the game after Adam Robinson appeared to lay one on Owen after tackling him - no doubt part of the plan to rattle the hosts with early aggression.

Robinson was sin-binned, as were team-mate Sam Scott and opponent Jordi Hedges following the all-in skirmish that followed.

Nevertheless, playing 11 against 12, the Knights took the lead through a Connor Robinson penalty following a cheap turnover.

It was certainly a fiery opening quarter, Ben Cockayne at the forefront of it, playing on the edge.

As soon as it was back to 13 v 13, there was another flare-up, Robinson and Hedges again getting a talking-to.

Then Doncaster took the lead with a slice of fortune.

After a break down the right, winger Sam Doherty kicked inside, the ball bounced over the covering Judah Mazive, hit an upright to take Andy Ellis out of the game, and was touched down by sub Kieran Cross. Harris converted.

But back at the other end, a swirling bomb by Connor Robinson had Owen in disarray on his own goal-line, needing to be rescued by winger Sanderson as Cockayne bore down.

The dropout led to York’s first try just as the heavens opened.

Splendid hands saw Cockayne send Scott through on an angle and he gave the scoring pass to sub Dixon, Connor Robinson goaling.

The game stayed in Doncaster’s half until the shower ended but the greasy ball and a few 50-50 passes – Moss the main culprit – meant it remained 8-6 at the break.

Joe Porter’s knock-on early in the second half led to a period of Doncaster pressure.

Jake Normington pulled off a try-saver on Jason Muranka as half-back Harris – so popular at York last year – began to have an influence.

Two dropouts were followed by a penalty and Harris duly levelled the scores with the two-pointer.

Saxton by now had gone off, with Cockayne reverting to the left wing, leaving Connor Robinson as the sole half-back. Prop Graeme Horne - again excellent up top - filled in as stand-off but only nominally.

Over on the right, some cracking defence crashed Sanderson into touch by the flag as Donny looked to shape up.

Then York garnered back some momentum and Robinson put them back ahead with a second - ultimately crucial - penalty.

And the lead increased thanks to some great handling from Jubb.

Robinson kicked on the last tackle, the ball ricocheted off a defender and Jubb, not long back on the field in the second-row, juggled it over his head as he crossed the whitewashed. Robinson goaled.

Then came the momentous defensive effort.

A soft penalty awarded against Scott and then a daft one conceded by Normington helped the Dons regain momentum. A dropout followed. Just as the visitors looked like turning things, another penalty piggy-backed the hosts upfield.

Owen looked sure to score but brave defending somehow prevented the touchdown, Moss needing treatment.

The pressure had to pay off eventually, and did so as Cameron Scott caught Hedges’ chip and touched down. Harris converted.

However, that was that and, backed by a noisy travelling support, the Knights got to celebrate another nailbiting victory.