KEIGHLEY Cougars head coach Rhys Lovegrove feels this weekend's visitors Barrow are top without doing anything special, and he has backed his side to give them a bloody nose.

It has been a rough few weeks for Keighley, with Covid issues decimating the squad, injuries to key men, and an increasingly worrying away record, which saw them lose a seventh in a row on the road on Sunday, 34-28 at North Wales Crusaders.

Cougars roared back from 26-0 down to go 28-26 in front, before losing to two silly late penalties and a try.

Keighley have won four of their five home games in League One, but lost all three away, with Lovegrove saying: "We've been able to draw on the energy and support at home.

"But away you lose that, and it's that little 10 per cent which is costing us.

"Those pivotal points in games are swinging the other way on the road.

"At Barrow for example, we'd got it back to 24-18, and there were two or three moments that at home, we'd have got tries, but instead we produced errors.

"Workington and North Wales were similar, so we need to look at our approach and start winning away."

For now it is back to home comforts and Barrow, with Lovegrove saying: "Barrow are top but they're not doing anything special, they just do what they're good at very well.

"In those moments where something needs to happen they can pull it off.

"They have an experienced forward pack, continuity over a few years, and have managed to keep key people fit this season.

"They've ground out wins and probably been a bit lucky in that they've generally faced the strongest teams at home so far.

"But they do have a consistent style, which is easy for them to repeat, and they're very hard to beat.

"But when we're on it, we can beat anybody, which we've shown by easily scoring points against the top teams so far."

Lovegrove said Barrow were not the team who'd impressed him the most this season either, instead singling out Coventry, whose home game with Keighley was postponed due to Covid issues at Cougar Park last month.

The Australian, who confirmed that dates have been proposed to reschedule that clash, said: "Coventry epitomise everything that League One is about.

"Just the way they've progressed and developed rugby outside of the heartlands.

"What Barrow have done is expected, but Coventry have been the team of the year for me."

Coventry should have been a good test for Lovegrove's side, but the West Yorkshire outfit were in the midst of that Covid crisis.

Asked how difficult that had been to deal with, Lovegrove said: "It's been very hard, especially on the players, and I think you could put a lot of the North Wales defeat down to the adversity we've suffered over the last few weeks.

"In the games we did get to have, the likes of Brenden Santi, Aaron Levy, Kyle Kesik and Jake Webster had to play huge minutes.

"That meant on the Tuesday, everyone was so sore, that it was all about recovery.

"We'd only get the one session then on the Thursday, but with isolation, we wouldn't have people at training.

"It's meant we've not had the ability to help individuals get better, which is a key part of what we do here.

"We've got four men in isolation at the start of this week, the likes of Kieran Moran and Jack Arnold, but they should be coming back ahead of the weekend."

Webster is a doubt for Barrow, having picked up an ankle injury against London Skolars a fortnight ago. He will get a scan this week to determine the extent of the damage.

Lovegrove admits Webster and Santi are key figures in the back row, so he will be hoping to welcome back his fellow Aussie soon.

On a brighter note, and half-back Jack Miller has signed a new deal to keep him at Cougar Park until the end of 2023.

Lovegrove beamed: "It was a no brainer to extend his contract.

"I've know him for a long time, having coached him at Doncaster too, and he's a big part of what we're trying to achieve here at Keighley.

"We want to play exciting, expansive rugby and Jack is integral to that.

"We're excited he'll be here for a long time now, and he can show off his skills and hopefully get us a few more wins."

Kick-off against Barrow at Cougar Park will be at 2pm on Sunday. The game is an all-ticket affair, and you cannot pay on the gate.