AFTER their unexpected 20-19 slip up the previous week at relegation-threatened West Hartlepool, Cleckheaton are right back in the mix for a North One East play-off berth - or even automatic promotion following this 37-23 home win over York.

The Moorenders handed the leaders only a fourth defeat of the season, with the scoreline being based on strong cherry and white defence and two unstoppable weaving runs in attack.

The victory not only pulled second-placed Cleckheaton back to within six points of table toppers York but, with Driffield losing 28-7 at Malton & Norton and Morley going down 32-27 at Pocklington, Matty Piper's side are again six points clear of third place with eight matches remaining.

If Cleckheaton are to gain promotion, maybe they should send a note of thanks to Batley Bulldogs coach Craig Lingard.

The former Keighley Cougars boss wants 29-year-old prop Tom Lillycrop to play for him this season but realises that he is not fit enough as yet so is happy for the ex-Bradford Bulls junior to continue playing union for Cleckheaton while he works on his fitness.

Lillycrop, who has made 98 appearances for the Bulldogs over five seasons, said: "I have re-signed for Batley for this year but I have agreed with Craig Lingard that I would like to play as many games as I can for Cleckheaton to help their promotion push as I think that I can help them.

"I am not quite physically there at the moment to play rugby league so I am carrying on here for the moment and we will assess things on a weekly basis.

"The more that I play here the better really, and I would like to think that I can play another four to six games of union before I go back to Batley."

Lillycrop, who has slotted in at flanker for Cleckheaton, admitted: "I had never played union before, but I have now played 10 games and I am really enjoying it.

"Cleckheaton are a great club and they have welcomed me, but I don't feel that there are any similarities between the two games."

Former Dewsbury Rams and Sheffield Eagles player Lillycrop then revealed that gossip emanating from North Yorkshire helped to fire up the home forwards.

He said: "There were some rumours going round earlier in the week from York that our pack was soft, and I felt we responded to that.

"It is testament to the guys and their quality that we've gone from losing to the second-from-bottom team one week to beating the leaders the next. We were fired up and we can go a long way."

As for the match itself, Lillycrop said: "We started off a bit nervy and they went 8-0 up but we didn't panic, kept our composure and defended well - defence wins games - turned it around and it was an outstanding performance.

"Dale Breakwell played really well at fly half but for me, Brad Marsden in the back row, who scored two tries, was our outstanding player.

"It is unfortunate that he cannot play every week but when he plays he is always on the money."

After their setback at West Hartlepool, Cleckheaton have trips to Durham City, Malton & Norton and Kendal, and Lillycrop admitted: "Maybe we relaxed too much in the two-hour coach journey to West Hartlepool.

"Maybe we don't take it as seriously when we play teams near the bottom, so that is all about preparation and professionalism.

"We were off it and got beaten but fair play to West Hartlepool - they are near relegation, we are a top team, that was their Grand Final and they upped their performance.

"You can only take things week by week so it is about us being consistent, going about things in the right way and winning every week."

York, who were missing fly half Declan Cusack and centre Will Fordy (hamstring injuries) and scrum half Toby Atkins (at Murrayfield), took the lead with a try by winger George Davies in the right-hand corner after a well-timed pass by No 8 Shane Goulding.

Fly half Liam Hessay added a penalty five minutes later but Cleckheaton got back in the match with a try by flanker Joey Carley in the 18th minute, with Dale Breakwell converting, just two minutes after home hooker Ben Thrower had a try ruled out for held up.

The first outstanding weaving run that resulted in a try for Cleckeaton came in the 28th minute when Dale Breakwell's shallow pinpoint cross-kick found Mikey Hayward just inside the home half, and there was no stopping the tall, side-stepping left winger.

Dale Breakwell's conversion made it 14-8 and Hayward was followed in similar fashion by flanker Marsden five minutes later, this time from the right flank, with Dale Breakwell's kick through coming despite him temporarily only having one boot on.

The latter, who has a good understanding with his scrum-half brother Tom, again added the extras and, after a strong rearguard action, Cleckheaton got their bonus-point try in first-half injury time, with Marsden on the end of an unstoppable drive.

Dale Breakwell's conversion made the half-time score 28-8 and the hosts started the second half well, with Matty Piper being ankle tapped when almost through and Dale Breakwell landing a 45th-minute drop goal.

He had another attempt charged down by York skipper Ross White six minutes later but the game turned in the visitors' favour when Cleckheaton's Andy Piper was sin-binned for handling on the floor in the 56th minute, despite York appearing to knock on beforehand.

While the prop was off the field, York scored tries by winger Rob Hodges and replacement Joe Maud (2), with referee Kristian Garland (Yorkshire Society) earning the ire of the home fans by awarding seven successive penalties against their side.

Hessay could not convert any of the tries, however, leaving Cleckheaton 31-23 ahead, and Dale Breakwell calmed any nerves with penalties in the 69th and 78th minutes, the game ending with No 8 Jack Seddon booting the ball so hard off the field that it nearly cleared the adjacent factory roof.