Keighley Cougars all set for Barrow raid

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cougars debutant Lewis Graham in action against Rochdale Cougars debutant Lewis Graham in action against Rochdale

Cougars player-coach Paul March says his side will head to Barrow Raiders in buoyant mood on Sunday as they aim to build on their demolition of Rochdale.

March’s men opened their pre-season campaign with a crushing 58-4 victory over the newly-promoted Hornets last weekend.

Debutants James Craven, Lewis Graham, Ash Lindsay, Jack Lee and the returning Ross Peltier all impressed as the Cougars ran in ten tries.

That the thumping win was achieved without the first-choice half-back partnership of Danny Jones and Paul Handforth made it all the more impressive.

Handforth, signed from Halifax, could be passed fit after a slight injury to play this weekend and will also hope to feature in next Thursday’s home friendly against Dewsbury.

Jones is currently away on honeymoon but player-coach March enjoyed a fine game against Rochdale as he gears up for his final season as a player, dovetailing with rookie Ben Stead to good effect.

March said: “Tiger (Handforth) will probably be back this week and Jonesy will be back off his honeymoon in a couple of weeks as well.

“Tiger coaches an amateur side and he took a bit of a knock while he was coaching.

“We just want to wrap him up in cotton wool because he’s a top player and we need to get him on the field at the right time.

“That’s the start of the season because we want him to control our team and I’m sure he’ll do that.

“It’s good for competition for places but we haven’t just got competition at half-back but across the squad. I think that’s what will put us in good shape this year.”

Stead kicked nine goals from ten attempts against Rochdale and showed plenty of promising touches.

March said: “Ben is a great goal-kicker and that’s going to be crucial during games. I just want him to be a bit more dominant when he’s got the ball and boss some of these older players around.

“If you look at what he did during the game, other players were trying to do the same and I thought Shick (Andy Shickell) was awesome again and James Craven at full back too.

“Shick is getting better with age – he’s like a fine wine! He has shed a few pounds from last year, he carried the ball strongly and defensively he was very strong.”

But March perhaps reserved the most praise for Lindsay’s performance on his first appearance for the club following his arrival from Batley.

March said: “I think Ash’s attitude in training is rubbing off on others and you could see that on Sunday. He will play a major part for us this season.”

The Cougars chief could shuffle his pack for Sunday’s trek to Cumbria, adding: “I know it’s a long journey but it’s always good to go up there.

“We’ll prepare well and we’ll change the team again. There will be players coming back in who didn’t play against Rochdale, so we’ll probably just take another 20-man squad up there.”

Cougars chairman Gary Fawcett was delighted by the victory and encouraged by the manner of the display.

“We looked hungry and played at a high intensity, especially in the first half,” he said.

“Ash Lindsay and James Craven enjoyed particularly excellent debuts and Ben Stead was well deserving of his man-of-the-match award.”

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