Paul March has called on his side to improve further this weekend as Cougars bid to record their first Kingstone Press Championship win of the season at home to Swinton Lions.

March’s men will head into the Saturday evening showdown on the back of three successive defeats following last weekend’s 30-20 reverse at derby rivals Halifax.

Yet Keighley showed impressive spirit and no little grit to eke out a losing bonus point at The Shay, leaving March in optimistic mood going into the Lions showdown.

The Manchester side – whose coach Steve McCormack resigned earlier this week for family reasons – lie one point and one place below 12th-placed Cougars and March accepts the significance of the clash.

The player-coach said: “I’m happy with what we achieved at Halifax in terms of the losing bonus point but we’ve got to improve again and Swinton is a massive game for us this week.

“The table shows us with three losses out of three but I couldn’t fault the effort at Halifax.

“Now we need to go again and get a win under our belts.

“We’ve worked hard in training this week to make sure we get the right result against Swinton.

“It’s important in terms of the result to get a win but as a team it’s important we improve again like we have done from Batley to Whitehaven to Halifax.

“If we improve again this weekend against Swinton then we’ll be all right.”

This weekend’s game has been brought forward a day to avoid clashing with Bradford City’s Capital One Cup final date with Swansea on Sunday.

March will again be without a clutch of key men through injury for the 6pm kick-off but he could keep himself in the halves alongside Scott Leatherbarrow after Danny Jones was deployed at full-back against his former club last Sunday.

March added: “With Jonesy at full back it just gives us an extra option out of the back with ball playing. That showed when he kicked behind for Paul White’s first try at Halifax.

“It also gives us an opportunity to play five front-rowers on the field and I thought it worked quite well last Sunday.”

March also reserved special praise for winger White, who claimed a clinical brace and looked dangerous throughout at The Shay.

“He’s a poacher and he’s grabbed a couple of decent tries,” added March.

“I thought his first one was a great pick-up and you have to be in the right place at the right time.

“Good wingers are always on your shoulder and he was there to support the play as I broke clear late on.”

March was also pleased with the contribution of Castleford duo Jake Emmitt and Charlie Martin following their arrival at Cougar Park on dual registration.

The pair have been named in an unchanged squad to face the Lions and the coach added: “I thought they set the standard again in the first half at Halifax.

“They’ve both come in with a good attitude and they’re not just here to make the numbers up for us.

“They’re here to be winners and we’re all striving to be winners.

“Unfortunately we’re not winners at the minute but we’re getting close.”

March will continue to liaise with Castleford boss Ian Millward on a weekly basis over players’ availability.

The Cougars boss explained: “It’s a weekly thing – Ian phones me on a Tuesday morning, lets me know who’s available and I decide if I need them.

“Charlie Martin hasn’t played for 18 months – Whitehaven was his first game last week and I thought he handled himself well.

“Against Halifax he played longer minutes and is just going to get better and better.

“We don’t know how long Jake will be with us but we’ll just see who they keep giving us and if it strengthens my team and the squad I’ll be happy.”