York City Knights v Bradford Bulls: This game could have “big impact” on our season, admits Knights coach James Ford

YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford knows Sunday’s game against Bradford Bulls could have a “big impact” on their season but has reminded his squad of the basics that have got them in such an enviable position in the Championship table.

Knights head coach James Ford. Picture Tony Johnson.

The promoted League 1 champions have excelled so far, climbing up to second place despite being part-time and facing so many more illustrious opponents.

Former Super League champions Bradford, who came up with them, are one of those and they are chasing hard in sixth spot, knowing they could cut the deficit to just two points with victory.

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Indeed, the battle for Championship top-five play-off spots is so tight that Sheffield Eagles in seventh could still reach as high as second with six games to go.

Victory for York, though, would do so much towards securing their play-offs place and putting them clear of Bradford at least.

“It’s just another two points, the same as any other game,” insisted Ford.

“But in terms of how the season transpires it could have a big impact.

“We just have to focus on our own preparations and we’ve had a very good week.

“We don’t want to get caught up in the occasion of it all on Sunday but we certainly want to enjoy the atmosphere there’ll be in such an important fixture.”

Ford insists he has not been surprised by how well his side have fared, doing better than a number of full-time rivals.

“They are a very resilient bunch with heaps of character and they do really respond well to challenges,” he said.

“And there has been lots of challenges this season; each week when you see the top sides we play and the top coaches, you look at the opposition full of admiration.

“We always go in full of respect and knowing we’ll have to play really well to get anything from it and that’s something we have to continue as we have a lot of tough fixtures remaining.”

York’s season got off to a flying start with a 24-14 win at Bradford in February and that is sure to be high in the minds of John Kear’s side.

Bulls drew with Swinton Lions on Sunday - ironically with York drawing at Batley Bulldogs on the same afternoon - but won away in Toulouse Olympique before that, allowing Ford’s side to replace the French team in second place.

He added: “Bradford have threats across the park.

“George Flanagan creates some threats on goalline and they have some big-boppers near the line, too, with some intelligent kickers.

“Out the backfield, Jake Webster and Jy Hitchcox are a handful and we have to stop them getting their sets off to a good start.

“We’re looking pretty good squad-wise, though, and we’re looking forward to this.”

Former Castleford Tigers winger Hitchcox, however, was a surprise exclusion when Kear named his squad yesterday although fit-again former Warrington Wolves centre Rhys Evans is poised for his first game since April.