KEIGHLEY Cougars head coach Craig Lingard has hit back at the criticism of James Ford, saying that the York City Knights boss needs to "look at his own team first", before commenting on the way the opposition go about their business.

Cougars lost 46-14 as the two sides clashed at the weekend, but the big talking point was not the scoreline, but a series of unsavoury incidents throughout the match which led to tensions on and off the pitch.

York head coach Ford was angered by Lingard's pre-match comments about his side's style of play, and after the match at Cougar Park, he blasted the hosts for being an "ill-disciplined, grubby bunch of blokes".

Lingard was unimpressed, and retorted: "He maybe needs to look at his own team first and foremost. We had three players who were hit late off the ball and our hooker Ryan Wright alleged he was headbutted on the floor.

"He has a deep laceration to his head which required stitches. But for me that's part and parcel of rugby league. We're not playing touch and pass.

"If James Ford wants to start chucking around accusations about players being "grubby", he needs to have a word with his own men about not taking people out after the ball's been passed.

"I'm not going to complain too much about incidents during the game though because it's a contact sport. If the official sees something that needs dealing with, he'll put it on report.

"What happens on the field stays on the field and as far as I'm concerned, the game's done and dusted. Congratulations to York for winning, they were the better team."

Lingard felt the turning point of the game occurred early on, with York only 6-0 ahead. Cougars prop Brad Nicholson reacted to a high tackle and was sent from the field, along with York captain Tim Spears.

The Cougars boss lamented: "York had given up five penalties on the bounce and after conceding that one, I think they would have been on a team warning and maybe we'd have had a man advantage.

"The way Brad reacted meant he went to the sin-bin himself, which meant we didn't benefit from that period of ill-discipline from York. I think that was the turning point of the game because York scored from the very next play."

Cougars were only 18-10 behind at the break, but sloppy defending and a second yellow card for Nicholson after a flailing arm caught Connor Robinson in the face, meant they eventually suffered a heavy defeat.

Lingard hopes to avoid a repeat of that poor second half showing when Cougars travel to rivals Whitehaven this week for a crucial clash.

He said: "After the York defeat, it's massively important to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, especially against teams around us like Whitehaven.

"These matches are four-point games. If we beat Whitehaven, they have to win twice to get back above us, but we're playing catch up if it goes the other way.

"It's never easy travelling up there, they're a strong team on their own patch. It's a test but it's one that we need after the second half performance against York."

Despite Matty Beharrell fracturing his shoulder only a fortnight ago against Doncaster, he made a shock return to the side on Sunday and Lingard was delighted.

He enthused: "He came through the game okay. The specialist had told him he'd be out for four to six weeks but he wanted to play against York.

"I felt that was optimistic but he trained last week and passed a fitness test on Thursday. He's back a lot sooner than we expected which is good for us."

Lingard only had a few minor fitness concerns looking ahead to the Whitehaven game, saying: "There's a couple that have picked up knocks, like Ritchie Hawkyard.

"Dan Parker got bashed about a little bit and Brad Nicholson had a hand injury. They're all probably superficial, but we'll have a look in training and see if they need to be left out, or they can play through it.

"I think people are always hurting more after losing a game, so we'll see how it turns out after they've had some treatment."