CRAIG Lingard is hoping key members of his squad follow his lead by extending their contracts beyond this year.

The Cougars head coach marked the start of 2018 by penning a deal to keep him at the club for an extra 12 months until the end of next season.

The agreement saw the Keighley board take up their option to tie down Lingard for what will be a third campaign in 2019, having originally signed him for two years after replacing Paul March.

With the coach aiming to build a squad capable of earning promotion from League One, he is keen to keep his prize assets on board beyond this season.

Lingard said: "We did it last year. We identified pretty early which people we wanted to tie down for this season and got eight or nine signed up. We'll probably look to do that again at some point during the early part of the campaign."

Davey Dixon and Emmerson Whittel are already on deals until the end of the 2019 season and, although Lingard said he has not finalised who he wants to keep long-term, he has already pinpointed half-back pair Benn Hardcastle and Matty Beharrell.

"Decent half-backs are like gold dust and I personally think we have the best two half-backs in the division," said the Cougars coach.

"Ideally I would like to get those two tied down – but no doubt other people will be looking at them as well.

"It is important that we get the right people down here and they are enjoying it. More importantly, we've got to be winning. If we have a winning team down here, people are more likely to stay."

Lingard – who confirmed that the pre-Christmas signing of prop Jose Kenga from Hunslet is likely to complete his squad for 2018 – is delighted to have extended his stay at the Cougars helm following a promising first year in charge.

Yet he is under no illusions he will have to deliver the goods to remain in his post.

He said: "It's good to get the board's backing but that can quickly change. It is a results-based game and I am fully aware of that and I won't be resting on my laurels and thinking I have got an easy two years now. It's not job done, it's job just started."

Meanwhile, York Acorn prop Tim Stubbs has signed for Cougars Reserves after a trial period.