Cougars player-coach Paul March admits “it doesn’t get much tougher” than a trip to Featherstone but is backing his men to produce the goods in tomorrow’s Good Friday showdown (7.45pm).
Rovers have emerged as one of the best teams outside of Super League in the past few seasons and currently lie second in the table.
But March, who is looking for an improvement following Keighley’s 29-20 defeat at Batley last Sunday, said: “It doesn’t get much tougher than Featherstone away but if we want to make the top eight and top six then we’ve got to compete with sides like Batley and Fev.
“We need to be better, though, because we put ourselves in a position to beat Batley but turned cheap ball over and were lazy in defence to let them back into the game.
“We competed and I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win but people are going to look at it and think it was a well-earned point. It was but we go to Featherstone now aiming to pick up all three.”
March voiced his concerns with the officiating during Sunday’s defeat at Mount Pleasant as Batley prop Alex Rowe was only put on report for a late shoulder charge on Danny Jones. Moments later, the Bulldogs broke downfield and former Cougars half-back Scott Leatherbarrow scored under the posts.
March added: “At 16-16, Alex Rowe only got put on report for a shoulder charge and then orchestrated the breakaway.
“We had already spoken to the referee about late challenges and I’ve had dialogue with (RFL match officials coach) Ian Smith on a number of occasions this year about players getting protected.
“It disappointed me that nothing else got done about that but Tiger (Paul Handforth) and Jonesy spoke to the referee just before that.
“It’s a cheap way, putting him on report, because they have gone down the field and scored.”
March, however, admitted he may have not been right with his team selection.
He said: “I’ll hold my hand up, I think I got it wrong. The previous week we played with three ball-players and we changed it a bit last Sunday, depending on the personnel we had out there.
“We were missing Jode Sheriffe, Andy Shickell and Ash Lindsay, so we had to change things about, but in the last 20 minutes we created opportunities.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t do that at the beginning but that was my gameplan – we were going down the middle with the big fellas and later on hitting them out wide.”
It came to light that Shickell had been playing with a stress fracture in his lower leg for several weeks. It was initially thought he had an infection in his ankle but an X-ray revealed a stress fracture.
However, the prop and fellow forward Jodie Sheriffe could be back in contention to play tomorrow.
Club captain James Feather is also closing in on a return from a groin injury and could be available for next weekend’s trip to Swinton in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.
*Cougars under-20s were thumped 82-10 at home by Featherstone last Thursday, with Chris Unsworth scoring twice for the hosts.
Dean Muir’s side are back in action again tonight when they face Halifax at The Shay (7.45pm kick-off).