TIGHTENING up defence has been a top priority for Cougars head coach Craig Lingard as he prepares his side for the visit to Doncaster on Sunday.
Keighley may have been involved in League One’s most entertaining fixture last week, when Cougar Park witnessed 100 points being scored as the hosts lost 58-42 to Barrow.
But while Lingard is pleased with the attacking threat on show, he wants to shore up the defence.
He said: “It’s something we need to look at. We’ve been sporadic with our defence. We’ve had some good games, conceding just eight against North Wales, six against Hemel and 12 against Hunslet, which is respectable.
“But at the same time we have conceded over 40 against Toronto, over 40 against Gloucester, over 50 against Barrow and over 20 against Coventry. I don’t think that is acceptable and we need to fix it up as soon as we can.
“It is more a communication thing as opposed to a technique thing. Everyone knows what they need to do. We need to improve our communication on the edge and work more as a unit rather than as individuals.”
Keighley have the highest scoring record in the division (283) apart from the two standout teams at the top in Toronto and Barrow. On the flip side, their 202 points conceded is the highest in the top eight.
Lingard has brought in a more expansive game plan but insisted that should not be at the expense of a solid rearguard.
“There is a completely different mentality to attack and defence,” he said.
“Players have got freedom to play and at the same time that might mean a few more errors than if you are playing a conservative game.
“But we need to have that mental aptitude to switch on to defence if we make that mistake. Just because we have conceded a penalty or lost the ball, it doesn’t mean it should always lead to the other team scoring. We spoke long and hard about that in training.
“We are still relatively young as a team and still learning about each other, what our standards are and putting them into practice.
“As the team progresses, we’re confident that our defensive attitude and communication will get better.”
Cougars beat Doncaster – who parted company with coach Gary Thornton earlier this month in the first round of the League One Cup – but Lingard does not see that as having too much influence this weekend.
He said: “We’ve come on a lot since we played them at start of season.
“Reading between the lines there might be a bit of unrest in their camp so that might play into our hands a bit but we will have to be on our guard against that – they’ll be looking to impress whoever the new coach is that comes in.”
“We’ve got to start well. We needed to do that against Barrow but failed. We need to get some points on the board early and make it an easier game for us.”
Lingard will carry out checks on several injured players who missed the Barrow clash including Hamish Barnes (knee), James Feather (illness) and back-rowers Josh Lynam and Josh Tonks.
He said: “We are hopeful three out of four will be back. Hamish took a bit of bad knock against Coventry but maybe all four will be okay.”
Meanwhile, utility back Davey Dixon has been called up to the extended Scotland squad for the World Cup in Australia.