KEIGHLEY Cougars chairman Mick O'Neill says he had to act now and sack head coach Craig Lingard.

Cougars parted company with the 41-year-old after two-and-a-half seasons in charge of the Betfred League One club.

In a statement, O'Neill says though it was a difficult decision to let Lingard go, he felt he had to do it in the best interests of the club's future and it "needed fresh club management talent to move forward".

O'Neill added Cougars now need to "throw everything they can" at getting promoted from the third tier as soon as they can before a predicted Rugby Football League (RFL) restructuring.

O’Neill: "Last night was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and I know it has upset a number of Cougar fans.

"I’d like to place on record that Craig Lingard is a fine man, with a professional spirit.

"He stuck by the club in some of the darkest months of its history, and everyone connected with Keighley Cougars respects and appreciates this commitment – that is why when we took over in January we agreed to continue Craig’s contract without hesitation.

"In the last few months we’ve had time to analyse the club, what works well and what doesn’t, and everyone has worked tirelessly to put things right, on and off the field, to get the club out of this horrible division.

"We have two years to do this before the RFL restructuring, and there isn’t a moment to lose.

"Craig’s contract expires in September, and we had to make a decision on whether to renew it for another two years – I put off making this decision to give the side time to settle down and get in a groove.

"We couldn’t delay any more, and it would be unfair to Craig, as well as detrimental for forward planning at the club, not to make a decision this week.

"We reviewed the last three season’s performances, and the recent two tough loses, and it seemed very real that the initial success we’ve had could be slipping away - we cannot allow that to happen - there isn’t time.

"We must throw everything we can at the club to get it promoted as soon as possible, and I am dedicated to doing this.

"It was for these reasons that we decided the club needed fresh management talent to move forward.

"I had to tell Craig that we wouldn’t be renewing the contract in September.

"Believe me when I say this was an awful task to do, and I wished very much I didn’t have to do it - but I have to be resolutely focused on the success of Keighley Cougars, and we will do all we can to find the best way forward for the club at all times.

"We now need to move on, together, and push forward the revival of Keighley Cougars."