JAMES FORD admits that York City Knights face “zero expectation or pressure” in Sunday's Betfred Championship play-off semi-final at Leigh Centurions (2pm).
York upset the odds to beat Halifax Panthers 26-24 in the quarter-finals last weekend and now face an even bigger challenge at the Leigh Sports Village.
The Knights take on a Leigh side thought to have a £1.5million playing budget, only £600,000 shy of the Betfred Super League salary cap and far larger than York’s, which is understood to be around £350,000.
Leigh won the Championship League Leaders’ Shield last month, having won 26 of their 27 regular season matches, their sole blemish coming in round two to second-placed Featherstone Rovers, by a 28-6 scoreline, who they have since thrice beaten this year.
“They’re the best team in the competition and the best team I’ve ever seen in the Championship,” assessed Ford.
“In terms of how we’re going to go against them, it’s a challenge because they’re a quality side full of threats across the field.
“There’s one or two areas where we fancy (ourselves) and we’ll go after those. But we’re going to have play really well, which is how you should have to play for a semi-final.
“We’ll compete as hard as we can and we’ll try a couple of things to see if we can catch Leigh (out) in a couple of areas.
“If it doesn’t come off, we’ll go again and we’ll keep going until it does. There’s zero expectation or pressure on us, it’s all on Leigh.”
York face Leigh for the first time since last month’s 100-4 capitulation, conceding a century of points for the first time in the club’s history.
Ford has revealed that he issued his players with an ultimatum after that thrashing.
“We had a pretty short chat and it finished with something along the lines of, ‘We’re coming back here in the play-offs and you can either let me know if you fancy that or not.
“‘If you don’t, that’s fine, it’s not for everybody. I just won’t pick you and you won’t be in contention.
“‘Those of you that want to come back here and show a better account of ourselves to Leigh, their supporters and our supporters, and show what we’re truly made of, let’s get some hard work done and get back here’.
“I’m not sure if that was just me being angry or genuinely believing that was the right thing to do at that stage of the season.
“After that game, there were a couple of nervy performances against Newcastle and Sheffield (24-18 and 20-12 wins respectively), but we got the job done.
“It was a much more cohesive performance against Workington (a 74-12 win) and a pretty good performance against Halifax.
“We’ve talked all year about being in form for the play-offs and we are. We’re going back to Leigh and we’re going to give it our best go.
“We get the opportunity now to do what we said we were going to do. We were embarrassed by a very good side and we want another go at them and we’ve got one.”