COUGARS player-coach Paul March has spoken of his delight at being awarded a new two-year contract.

The 34-year-old endured a tough debut campaign at Cougar Park last year after succeeding Jason Demetriou – with survival guaranteed only on the final day of the season.

But he has presided over a significant improvement this term, with Cougars reaching the Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals and on course to make the Kingstone Press Championship play-offs.

March’s men lie sixth in the table ahead of tonight’s derby at Halifax, which has been brought forward from Sunday so as not to clash with the Tour de France.

March, whose two-month stadium ban ends this weekend but not before tonight’s game, said: “I’ve really enjoyed my time in charge.

“Obviously my first year was a bit difficult, getting a team together in a relatively short space of time, but at the end of last season I was able to put together a squad I wanted for this year.

“I’m pleased with how everything is going and I’m happy to stay because we are building year on year.

“We’re sixth and we could be even further up the table had we been a bit smarter in some games.”

“But as long as we play consistent football then we will continue to improve every week.

“There are some big games coming up and we’re already looking at building for next year and who we might be looking to retain.”

March also paid tribute to chairman Gary Fawcett and chief executive Neil Cullen for supporting him during his controversial two-month stadium ban.

He added: “They have stood by me through my ban and I appreciate that.

“For them to come out and offer me a two-year deal before this ban is even up, I appreciate that too.

“Gary and Neil are both excellent to work with and they are trying to push the club off the field.

“I know my job is to make sure we are doing it on the field. This year we have been, so it’s working well.”

Half-back Danny Jones pulled a hamstring during Sunday’s thumping win over Rochdale and looks set for a spell on the sidelines. Sean Kelly or Ben Stead could deputise but March will again be barred from the stadium for the last game of his ban.

“If the game would have been on Sunday I would have been able to play,” said March.

“With the Tour de France coming to town, it means our game has been brought forward so I’m still banned. That’s disappointing because it’s a big derby game but the lads are up for it and I’m sure they will do a good job once again.

“There will be a big crowd and you don’t quite know what you’re going to get from Halifax this year. But we’ll just concentrate on ourselves and do the best job we can.”

Andy Shickell, Scott Law and Daley Williams could all return to the side tonight.