CRAIG Lingard believes rival sides are no longer underestimating Keighley Cougars after their strong start to the season.

Cougars reduced their pre-season points deduction to -3 following a 26-18 victory over Doncaster on Good Friday in Betfred League One.

They are now looking at getting to the zero points total as soon as possible and have an opportunity to further dent their tally when they host Workington Town on Sunday (kick-off 3pm). Workington were among many pundits pre-season favourites for a title assault but, after losing three of their first six games, they are seventh in the table. They sacked head coach Leon Pryce earlier this week with former Keighley player Ollie Watkins taking charge for Sunday's clash.

In contrast, Lingard's men are among the in-form sides in the division after their defeat of Doncaster made it three successive league wins and they are unbeaten since their opening-day loss at Whitehaven on February 17.

After this strong start, Lingard says rival teams are sitting up and taking note of his side's red-hot form and their pre-season crisis club tag has quickly eradicated.

He said: "The possibility of teams taking us lightly has now gone. They know the dangers we have got.

"Some of it is down to luck, but most of it is down to hard work. We are calling ourselves the misfits. We are a team of players no-one else wanted in pre-season.

"It just works sometimes. It's come together really well and everybody is working together well. I can't believe how good it has gone really. It has gone better than I could have imagined.

"I take it back to recruitment and bringing in good players. There are no egos in our changing room.

"I go back to the start of the season and it's all unknown, we didn't know how the team would gel and a few people wouldn't have been surprised if we'd lost 90 per cent of our games due to the issues we had in pre-season. The expectations are changing for us now."

Lingard says home form will be vital as Cougars look to further climb the league table this season.

He added: "It's very, very positive. The win on Friday gives us confidence starting with Workington.

"It's another massive test. They have recruited very heavily again. They are a team going for it this year. They have spent a lot of money on experienced people. The season is not going as well as they expected. They have lost their last three league and cup games.

"If we can win 80 per cent of our home games that will stand us in good stead."