KEIGHLEY Cougars have not exactly set the world alight so far in 2022, but head coach Rhys Lovegrove is not worried ahead of their League 1 opener at Oldham on Sunday.

A 22-6 Challenge Cup loss to Hunslet at the end of January was followed by error-strewn friendly defeats to Oldham and Swinton earlier this month.

But Lovegrove insisted: “There was nothing to be concerned about in the friendlies, more things that we picked up on.

“They were opportunities to get minutes, and to see which structures got picked up on, and which still need work.

“They were two quality fixtures for us, which was an improvement over what we’d had in the last two seasons.

“That showed in 2020 and 2021, because we did well results wise back then, but that didn’t translate into league form at the start of the season.”

Anesu Mudoti, Anthony Dyne, Billy Gaylor and Myles Tate were all out injured a fortnight ago for the Swinton game, but Lovegrove said: “For the most part, everyone is pretty much up for selection against Oldham.

“Dan Parker is still out suspended for another two games, and obviously QLT (Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e) has gone on a 28-day loan to Sheffield.

“With Q, he wasn’t getting the minutes he was after. He needs footy and he’d just slipped down the pecking order here.

“This was a chance for him to go out on loan and grasp that opportunity to play footy at Sheffield.

“Robert Matamosi has been on Army duty but he’s just come back now, so he’s available for Oldham.

“We know, with the current world climate in particular, he could get called back any time.

“But it’s good to have him here again now, because he’s a big personality who loves the game and lightens the mood.

“He’s been a big miss over the last six to eight weeks, as you need someone like that in the dark days of pre-season.”

Another player who could be in line for a surprise appearance at Oldham is new signing Rory Nettleton.

Lovegrove said: “We’ve just brought in Rory and Keenan Dyer-Dixon.

“Keenan’s athletic, he has a great attitude and he’s willing to learn, but he’s a bit younger and someone we’re looking to very much develop for now.

“Rory is closer to playing in the first team, and he can push for spots this season.

“He’s got a nice skillset for a middle, and he can play in the front row, second row or at 13.”

Asked if playing Oldham in pre-season will be of benefit when the two promotion contenders clash again on Sunday, Lovegrove said: “That game earlier in March gave us the chance to see how we’d shape up against top opposition.

“It will be good to play them again because they set the bar high for us three weeks ago, and that showed which of our boys could compete at that level.

“But it’ll still be early days on Sunday, round one, so we’ll just focus on ourselves, work hard for each other, concentrate on all the small things we need to, and take it each week at a time.”