Derby incentive big for Cougars

Keighley News: Cougars prop Andy Shickell is a doubt for Sunday’s clash with Halifax due to a shoulder injury Cougars prop Andy Shickell is a doubt for Sunday’s clash with Halifax due to a shoulder injury

Jason Demetriou admits Cougars have a huge motivation to beat derby rivals Halifax on Sunday as they look to close the gap on the Co-operative Champion-ship leaders.

Karl Harrison’s side will head to Cougar Park as pacesetters of the division after winning seven of their first nine outings.

But Cougars have a game in hand on Fax and victory over them this weekend would be a ringing endorsement of their own title credentials.

Demetriou’s men have not played for a fortnight and are raring to go ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

The Cougars player-coach said: “Halifax are top of the tree at the moment and the motivation is massive for us because we could go within a point of the top if we beat them and still have a game in hand.

“That would be a real plus. We want to get some continuity now and build towards the back end of the season.

“We had last weekend off so we’ve had two weeks to prepare for this game and have had plenty of time to look at Halifax and their strengths and weaknesses.

“We will be fully armed come Sunday with everything we need.

“We need to turn up with the right attitude and put in a performance that will hopefully get us a result.

“For me, Sean Penkywicz is Halifax’s key man with his go-forward.

“You take him out of the game and you go a long way towards beating them.

“He’s so dynamic out of acting half and one of the best hookers in the competition.

“They’ve got some strike players on the edges as well, but they’ve got strength right across the park and a strong pack.”

Demetriou is a confirmed admirer of former Batley and Salford boss Harrison, saying: “Karl has shown that he can motivate players on smaller budgets.

“He’s done at Halifax what he did at Batley by turning the club that was struggling into a top-four club.

“That’s why they were probably sad to see him go.

“Karl left Batley in fantastic shape and he’s gone to Halifax and put together a really strong squad.

“You’d probably say they were title favourites at this stage.

“We played them over there in the wet (Halifax won 13-12) and it was a really tough game.

“I’m sure this weekend is going to be even tougher.

“I think they could be back up to full strength and coming here looking to get the win.”

On the fitness of his squad, Demetriou added: “Andy Shickell (shoulder) is a doubt but Brendon Rawlins (ribs) is fine.

“We will give Andy until later in the week to see how he is. He’s the only major doubt, other than that we’re looking good and the squad is healthy.”

Meanwhile, Cougars are urging fans to turn out at tonight’s Q & A session in the Hall of Fame Bar at 7.30pm.

Chairman Gary Fawcett will be in attendance along with Demetriou and a number of his first-team squad.

The club are asking for a £2 donation for adult and £1 for children towards the Squadbuilder fund.

Demetriou said: “Hope-fully we will get a lot of people down.

“The money raised will go towards Squadbuilder and it’s a good time to have a Q & A session.

“We’re at the halfway stage in the season and a lot of people are talking about where the club is going in terms of its future on and off the field.

“Myself and Gary will be there to answer all those questions and hopefully we will get a good turnout at the start of what’s a big week.”

Sunday’s game is swiftly followed by next Thursday’s Northern Rail Cup quarter-final at home to Featherstone before another league clash at home to Batley.

Demetriou added: “It’s a tough run of fixtures but the players seem up for it and in a way it’s good that they come thick and fast.

“It would be great to get off with a win this weekend because that will lead into the next two.

“If we don’t put in at least a good performance it’s going to make the next two games even tougher.

“We need a big effort this weekend.”

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