COUGARS chief Craig Lingard has highlighted the importance of going into their forthcoming three-week break on the back of a victory at home to Hunslet tomorrow.
Having suffered two league defeats on the trot, along with two cup losses at Barrow, Keighley returned to form with a whopping 84-6 victory at Hemel last Sunday.
Now Lingard is determined to gain some momentum in League One by backing that up with a Good Friday success at Cougar Park (3pm).
That aim is made more pressing given that Cougars – who are now out of both cups – do not return to action until May 7 at Coventry Bears.
The head coach said: "It is really important we go into that break on the back of two wins rather than on a defeat.
"If we beat Hunslet on the back of beating Hemel as well you don’t want a break.
"The flip side of that is if people are carrying injuries it is a chance for them to recuperate and get back into the squad.
"For us, the most important thing is we do the business tomorrow and get the win. Then we can look at going into that break with a positive attitude rather than looking back and thinking we need the next game to come round quick to try make amends for a defeat."
Hunslet will arrive with some familiar faces, with former Cougars Gavin Duffy, Jake Normington, Lewis Reed and the recently-departed Sean Hesketh among their squad.
Lingard, who is set to welcome back second row Josh Lynam after he pulled out through illness on the morning of the Hemel game, sees many similarities between tomorrow's visitors and his own team. They have a new man at the helm in former Whitehaven boss James Coyle, who succeeded former Cougars coach Matt Bramald at the end of last season.
Lingard said: "Both teams are probably closely matched on paper and in a similar situation in that there are two new coaches and two new squads.
"I would imagine this is the sort of a game we need to win to get higher in the table come the end of the year, so even though it is early in the season it is going to be a big game for us.
"Knowing James Coyle, he likes to play right to the line and commit defenders. Whether he has got the players he’d like to play that game plan, I’m not 100 per cent sure.
"They are similar to us in that they are a bit of an unknown quantity. They are a new team, chopping and changing to find the right combination for them."
Prop Scott Law, who damaged an arm against Barrow in the League One Cup and did not feature against Hemel, remains sidelined tomorrow.
The coach said: "We're hopeful it is not as bad as first thought but we won't rush to get him back with the break coming up."
Fran Welsh (back) is also out but Will Milner returns after being cleared following a head injury.
There is also a return to the 19-man squad for Sean Kelly after time on the sidelines with a knee, and then a head injury. Liam Darville and Harry Aaronson drop out.
19 MAN SQUAD TO FACE HUNSLET:
2 – Andy Gabriel
5 – Davey Dixon
7 – Matty Beharrell
9 – James Feather
11 – Josh Lynam
12 – Brendon Rawlins
13 – Mike Emmett
14 – Adam Brook
15 – Neil Cherryholme
16 – Will Milner
17 – Nathan Conroy
18 – Josh Tonks
19 – Matthew Bailey
22 – Ritchie Hawkyard
25 – Ben Sagar
26 – Vinny Finigan
27 – Sean Kelly
29 – Brad Nicholson
32 – Adam Ryder