York Knights will be seeking to start their 2023 Betfred Championship campaign in style against fellow play-off rivals Widnes Vikings at the LNER Community Stadium on Sunday (3pm).
York have enjoyed a successful pre-season, starting with a 28-12 friendly victory away to Betfred League One promotion contenders Doncaster RLFC last month. Matty Marsh scored twice while Ata Hingano, Conor Fitzsimmons, Josh Daley and James Glover also crossed the whitewash at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Off-season optimism was furthered fuelled by a 48-12 win over last season’s Betfred Championship Grand Finalists Batley Bulldogs in a behind-closed-doors affair at the York St Johns University Sports Park.
A hat-trick from Joe Brown was aided by tries from Bailey Antrobus, AJ Towse, Fitzsimmons, Marsh and Glover as the hosts dispatched a near full-strength Bulldogs outfit.
After two pre-season victories, Head Coach Andrew Henderson will lead out the Knights for the first time in a competitive fixture and for the first time at the LNER Community Stadium.
The Knights will be seeking to maintain their strong recent record against Widnes since earning promotion back to the Betfred Championship in 2018.
Widnes have been toppled on six straight occasions by York, with the Knights completing league doubles over the Cheshire club in the last three seasons.
In March last year, a Marsh brace was complemented by scores from Brendan O’Hagan and Marcus Stock as well as youngsters Levi Edwards and Brad Ward, inspiring a 32-6 win at the LNER Community Stadium.
The double was secured three months later thanks to a narrow 16-14 victory at the DCBL Stadium. Coming from 14-4 down, a late Marsh try earned a valuable two points in the Knights’ Betfred Championship play-offs finish.
Vastly-experienced Head Coach John Kear, who took charge at Widnes in July, has been busy rebuilding his squad during the off-season, signing Betfred Super League forwards Kyle Amor and Jordan Johnstone plus experienced Betfred Championship backs Tom Gilmore, Kieran Dixon and Ryan Millar.
Previewing the season opener, Henderson said: "I think we’re in a good place, considering the limited time we’ve had together along with the transition of a new training programme and new coaching and performance staff.
"I do believe we are heading in the right direction, but what excites me as a Coach is the amount of growth and improvement I know we still have in us. Hopefully, we will see this fulfilled throughout the course of the season.
"Today’s opponents Widnes have got a strong balanced squad overall and their strength in depth is clear to see.
But our focus is mainly on us, what we need to deliver to compete along with making the small improvements needed to improve performance. We are aware of Widnes and the threats they pose, so have prepared for that as well."
Captain Chris Clarkson is being assessed in training this week after picking up a knock last month.
The Knights are without forwards Pauli Pauli and Ukuma Ta'ai, half-back Jamie Ellis and centre Brad Ward through injury.
Henderson said: “We’ve still got enough quality in our ranks and I’ve personally got confidence in the playing group that they can go and get the job done.”
General admission tickets are priced at £20 for adults, £15 for concessions and FREE for under-16s.
To purchase your ticket online, click HERE. Alternatively, you can call 01904 942232 or head to the Ticket Office (next door to the Club Shop).