Thursday, 11 August 2016

Sunday's Coming: York

It’s not been the best of starts to the Super 8s for York. Caught in the middle of a frankly bonkers ground share agreement, owner John Guildford pulled the plug in what looked like an assisted suicide and left League in the city staring into the abyss.

With all contracts void and all players confirmed as free-agents, their opening game against Doncaster was summarily postponed while the RFL thrashed out a ‘rescue’ that would see the Knights play out the season as a takeover bid continues in the background.

Whilst the team did make it to Toulouse (going down to a creditable defeat), Only 15 players made the trip to France as work commitments, family matters, walk-outs, and injuries picked James Ford’s side apart.

At the time, Ford said: “Off the field that’s nothing to do with me. I’m not sure what’s happening. I have to manage these boys and get the best out of them. But if they turn up for me and show that endeavour and desire for me and for each other, then I will work damn hard for them.”

But ‘off the field’ does have an impact. The Knights have a contract with the council which entitles them to play matches at Bootham Crescent as part of the deal on the council's delayed community stadium scheme. But the council have a separate deal - with, it seems, different terms - with York City Football Club, which has added a whole new layer of complexity and uncertainty to what (to an outside observer) looks like a farce.

Even with a delicate equilibrium established, last week’s game against Barrow came close to
being moved to Castleford when the council/football axis demanded that the game be played at noon, rather then 3pm to appease the terms of the football club’s agreement. Barrow refused to travel early and- after much wrangling - it was agreed on a 2pm kick-off. All that hassle to save an hour. Someone needs to knock some heads together.

As it was, the game ended with York’s 11th straight defeat to Barrow - a proper bogey-team run stretching back to 2007 - as the knights went down 20-6. York now lie in fifth only one-point above sixth-placed Hunslet.

After the defeat to in-form Barrow, Ford was scathing in his criticism of some of his players: “… there were a couple of performances that fell a bit below the standards at this club. Barrow played with some decent shape and they have some huge middles who get them tempo, and Jamie Dallimore is a good half. But there were some really poor efforts individually from one or two (York) blokes on the edges, with one or two taking some soft options.”

After an arm-wrestle of a game, the Raiders ran away with the game, with three tries in the last nine minutes.

Hornets come into the game on the back of another gritty, grafting win - having seen-off a stubborn 12-man Keighley. Having overcome the initial urge to force play to the edges, Hornets settled the ship and put in a solid second half. Interestingly, in a game where the opposition was a winger short, all three Hornets tries came from forwards running hard at close range: proof that sometimes you just have to hit a tricky problem with something hard and heavy.

Hornets’ win did see another achievement box ticked for the season: a top five playoff place now guaranteed. And a win on Sunday effectively kills off York’s chance of finishing second. Onwards and upwards: see you Sunday.