CRAIG Lingard believes the Cougars “can challenge anyone” in the Super 8s – provided they beat Oxford to get there.

The Keighley head coach watched his side keep their season alive with a last-gasp 30-30 draw at Workington Town on Sunday.

Andy Gabriel’s late try ensured honours ended even in Cumbria, and gave the visitors the all-important eighth spot ahead of the final games of the regular season.

Victory over Oxford at Cougar Park this weekend will keep them above the likes of Crusaders and Hunslet, confirming their place in the end-of-season shake-up.

And Lingard says his side are bursting with belief ahead of that crunch encounter.

He commented: “How the Workington game finished will give us a lot of confidence.

“We’re treating it as a victory – we’ve snatched a ‘victory’ from the jaws of defeat and that has kept our season alive.

“It’s down to us now. All we’ve got to do on Sunday is win and we’re in the eight, and I think we can challenge anyone in there.”

Although Matty Beharrell missed the late conversion attempt to win the game, Lingard and his team were content with their point – and celebrated the moment.

“It’s difficult sometimes keeping your composure,” he added. “You try to do that as a coach because you’ve got to look at the bigger picture rather than getting embroiled in particular incidents.

“But at that moment we knew the game was done and dusted then and the worst we could get was a draw.

“We knew at that point that we’d done our job and the lads had performed really well in that second half and got what they came for.”

The Cougars boss also reserved special praise for the returning Ritchie Hawkyard, who was playing his first match since suffering facial injuries against Hunslet on Good Friday.

“Ritchie was outstanding, he was absolutely outstanding,” confirmed Lingard.

“We threw him in at the deep end, not having any games under his belt since his injury, but he’s as fit as they come so we had no qualms about him getting through the game.

“We played him on the bench because we felt that if we played the game at a high tempo that having him and Nathan Conroy out on the field at the same time could do a bit of damage.

“In the first half that didn’t quite work but in the second half that’s exactly how it worked.

“Sean Kelly also stepped up again and he’s been out a long time following his ban. He got over for two tries so he put in a good shift.

“And Aiden Scully, I thought he did great on his debut. It’s difficult stepping up to this level but he hardly put a foot wrong – he made one error in that first half from a play-the-ball – but apart from that he handled the situation really well.”