CRAIG Lingard is looking for a three-fold boost as Cougars head to Newcastle Thunder for their first League One road trip of the season on Sunday.

Victory would make up for two 'abject' performances at Kingston Park last year; it would get them off to the ideal start on the road in the league as they look to improve their away form; and it would be a huge confidence boost ahead of their crunch derby the following week at home to Bradford Bulls.

Keighley – who crashed out of the Challenge Cup last Sunday after squandering an 18-point lead at North Wales Crusaders – lost 32-12 to Thunder in the regular league campaign last season before going down 34-8 in the Super Eights.

Head coach Lingard admitted: "They were abject displays that weren’t us. It was disappointing to happen once and massively disappointing for it to happen twice.

"Even before my time here, I think historically it has always been a place where Keighley have struggled to get a result, so it is certainly something that we need to try and make amends on."

Having sneaked into the play-offs last season under Jason Payne, Thunder are hopeful of mounting another strong challenge.

They have brought 11 new faces into their squad, including former Cougars player Aaron Ollett from Dewsbury, and have a dual-registration agreement with Super League grand finalists Castleford.

Having yet to play a league game after their match at West Wales was called off at the last minute, they scored 13 tries to set a new club record-winning margin in hammering hosts Hemel Stags 74-0 in the Challenge Cup.

Lingard said: "Looking at Newcastle last year and what they are expecting this year, they have spent quite a bit of money in recruitment so I think they have aspirations to be in the top five.

"So it is going to be a really good test against rivals who are going to be around us.

"Like the first week against Workington, it was really good to beat them as we have taken two points off them. It was almost a four-point game and it is exactly the same with Newcastle."

Cougars won only three times on the road in the league in 2017 and Lingard knows that must improve if they are to improve on last season's seventh-place finish.

Their 2018 campaign on their travels has not started well following the 28-24 cup defeat to Crusaders but League One remains the priority for Lingard's side.

He said: "Our away form was not good enough last year. We’ve said as a group we want that to improve this year and we have set a minimum amount of games we want to win away.

"It would be good to chalk one off straight away in our first game and get two wins out of two."

Should that happen, Cougars will be sitting pretty for the eagerly-anticipated derby at home to neighbours Bradford Bulls – made all the more spicy following their feisty friendly – on Sunday, March 11.

Bearing in mind a tough opening run of games for Keighley – which also sees them head to York City Knights and Hunslet – Lingard believes six points from the first five games would be a decent haul.

"If we can beat Newcastle it would gives us great confidence ahead of playing the Bulls.

"I think we have got the most difficult first fixtures out of everybody in the league. If we can win more than we lose and say win three out of five I think we will have done really well.

"If we win even more than that I will be absolutely delighted – but if we can pick six points up out of our first ten then going forward for the season, we will be in a really strong position.

"Then it would be down to us to carry it on."