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York City Knights step up to biggest game in history
The Knights host arch-rivals Hunslet tomorrow (3pm) in a game dubbed the biggest in both club’s recent history, with relegation to the ‘cemetery league’ afoot for the losers.
Victory, on the other hand, could lift either club out of the drop zone, and Thornton has called on the people of the Minster city to help to keep their club in rugby league’s second tier.
“They can be so important,” he said. “I can understand how disappointed they are, like we all are, with where we are. But this is a one-off, a big opportunity to put a few things right, to get off the bottom. If they can come in big numbers, it would be a massive boost.
“You always enjoy playing in front of big, passionate crowds, so the more the better. We’re all in this together. To get a following with vociferous support can make a difference.
“I’ve said before about York City’s plight last season when they were at the bottom and nearly 6,000 turned out to help them get out of the mire. I know we won’t get 6,000 but if we can get a good response too, it would be fantastic.”
Thornton, on a seven-game losing run, insists the club are keeping the thought of relegation at the back of their minds, but he cannot deny the significance of tomorrow’s result.
“We’re focusing game by game, and, until it is mathematically impossible for us to stay up, we’re not contemplating relegation,” he said. “It is a factor when talking to players about next season, but right now our focus is the Hunslet game. Our fate is still in our hands and we have a chance.
“We’ve seen teams around us pick up points. Hunslet went 13 games without a win but then won last week. Swinton have had a similar pattern, Barrow as well. Form and luck does change. We’re looking at ours changing this weekend.”
He added: “It’s far to say it’s the biggest game of the season so far, for both teams. With what’s at stake, you can’t put too much importance on it.”
Asked if Hunslet counterpart Barry Eaton’s assertion that the team that handles the pressure better will prevail, Thornton said: “That’s a fair assessment. Both teams are under the same kind of pressure. He’s got more experience in his team with the likes of the Coyle brothers and David March. But I’d like to think home advantage will have a big effect.
“We’ve had pressure all season, so it’s nothing new.
“You expect players like Jack Lee, Simon Brown, James Ford, Sam Scott, with their experience, to come through. Jack, Simon and Sam are only 24, 23 and 21 but they have experience and there’s responsibility on those young shoulders. “They’ve played in and won grand finals – Simon and Sam played in the last two Championship grand finals, and that’s pressure.
“Matty Nicholson is chomping at the bit afer getting 40-odd good minutes last week (back from injury). Nathan Freer is chomping at the bit.
“The players are really looking forward to it. They’re looking at this as a game which can turn things around and get us on the front foot.
“There’s been no nervousness this week. Training has been good. Nobody has even mentioned the word ‘relegation’. This is a game we’re targeting.”
Jack Iley dropped back into the under-20s for their match at Oldham last night, while winger Dougie Flockhart is being recalled by Doncaster RUFC this weekend, but the other 15 that played in the defeat to Swinton are in tomorrow’s squad, augmented by fit-again Sam Latus, a likely swap for Flockhart, hooker Kriss Brining, half-back/hooker Jonny Presley and second-row Jack Pickles.
Knights: from Carr, Elliott, Ford, J Latus, S Latus, Brown, Johnston, Presley, Lee, Brining, Nicholson, Freer, Pickets, Mallinder, Pickles, Smith, Scott, Stenchion, ldous.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
• WORKINGTON’S Elliott Miller will miss Thursday night’s visit to Derwent Park of York City Knights after being suspended for two matches.
The winger pleaded guilty to a grade ‘B’ charge of punching Quentin Lualu-Togagae in the Championship fixture against Sheffield on July 31.
Miller, who was sent off following the 14th-minute incident, was also fined £50.
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