York trip a test of Fax’s ambition

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HALIFAX boss Karl Harrison hit the nail on the head this week.

In his short Shay reign, the former Great Britain front rower has already proved he is not afraid to meet expectations head on, even if it might increase the pressure on himself and his players.

He did it before the opening game of the season at Dewsbury, effectively making the Northern Rail Cup date a ‘must win’ fixture.

And he was equally blunt in his assessment of tomorrow afternoon’s Co-operative Championship assignment at York.

“If you’re a team that has aspirations to be up there at the top, you need to go to York and places like York and win,” said Harrison.

He’s not wrong. That’s not being disrespectful to Chris Thorman and his revamped City Knights side, it’s a reality.

In what is a blink-and-you-miss-it 18-game league season, it is probable that the team that tops the ladder in September will not lose too many games.

Featherstone’s achievements over the last couple of seasons bear that out:One? Two? Three at the most?

Either way, while York will undoubtedly present a worthy challenge to every team that visits the Huntington Stadium this summer, it is far from the most difficult away day on Fax’s agenda.

Which means that points dropped tomorrow will be difficult to recoup at places like Featherstone, Leigh and Sheffield.

That’s not to say this a nailed-on three pointer. Far, far from it.

Fax’s last trip to York, in August last year, emphasised perfectly the potential for disaster.

With stand-in coach Damian Ball absent through family commitments, Fax headed to north Yorkshire with a makeshift coaching staff and paid a high price.

They turned in a horror performance in a shocker of a game, the Knights running out deserved winners.

The background to tomorrow’s match is entirely different, and there remains a better than fair chance that the outcome will be different too.

Perhaps the biggest unknown remains what the Knights themselves are capable of.

Their coach Chris Thorman has assembled a side of real quality. Former Leeds half back Jordan Tansey, threequarter James Ford – a player who apparently interested Harrison when he was assembling his first Fax squad – and Thorman himself are all absolutely top class Championship players.

Yet they were apparently comfortably beaten at Dewsbury last week.

As well as the usual DVD footage, Thorman will also have first hand scouting reports from his brothers, Paul and Neil, who were both at London Skolars, one on the field, one off it, when Fax almost fell flat on their faces a couple of weeks ago.

Harrison’s side were not great that day, in conditions that were even less great, and it would be astonishing if they turned up with the same slapdash approach tomorrow.

Having disposed of Hunslet so comprehensively last week – probably more comprehensively than even the 44-18 scoreline suggests – they will be keen to build, not start sliding backwards.