KEIGHLEY Cougars head coach Craig Lingard wants his side to burst through a congested mid-table and continue their climb up the Betfred League One table after returning to winning ways.

Cougars will be hoping for home comforts on Sunday when they entertain second-from-bottom Hemel Stags, following their first victory in three games, a 38-22 triumph at Hunslet on Good Friday.

The Stags clash will be Cougars' first home match since they were turned over 54-6 by leaders Bradford Bulls on March 11.

Victory over Hunslet put Cougars ninth, making them one of six teams on four points after four matches in a tight mid-table.

Lingard says it was important for his side to restore that winning feeling, with a weekend game against one of the early strugglers targeted as a useful exercise to extend that run.

Cougars have also reported a clean bill of health ahead of the Hemel clash, as they look to build momentum. Matty Beharrell is back in contention this weekend after serving his two-match suspension.

Cougars have rearranged their League One match at Newcastle Thunder for Sunday, April 22 (ko 2pm) at Kingston Park. The clash was postponed on March 4 and all tickets bought for the original date will still be valid.

Lingard said: "We have got the Hemel game down as two points on the table. We have got to respect these teams. We put 80 odd points on Hemel last year. They are a better team this year.

"We have got to knock teams like Hemel off and put some good points on them.

"It is really important to beat the teams around us. They are almost four-point games already at this stage of the season.

"The league is that clustered. It is so close. Everybody is beating everybody else.

"We have got to claw some points back, we're looking for the victory.

"The momentum we can now get after winning will make such a difference to us. If you get into a losing streak, it can be difficult to get out of it.

"There's been a shift in atmosphere around the club and the victory over Hunslet will help boost that even more.

"The Hunslet game was a good victory for us ahead of two tough games coming up against Oldham Roughyeds and Newcastle Thunder. I'm not sure when in the season we are better off playing them.

"It was good to get back to winning ways against Hunslet.

"Having the Newcastle game on a Sunday is probably good as it gets us into a routine of playing on Sundays and we don't have to travel up there mid-week."

Lingard says he is pleased with his squad's four-point haul from their opening four league games; victories over Workington Town and Hunslet and defeats to Bradford Bulls and York City Knights.

He added: "Everybody was hurting after the Bradford game.

"We were pretty realistic going into these first few games. We had targets of what we wanted to achieve. I was pleased with our win over a really expensive Workington team.

"To try to get into the top five at the end of season, we have to believe in ourselves.

"The guys have showed some really good character since the Bradford game.

"I had been seeing improvements from the team for the couple of weeks before the Hunslet win."

Meanwhile, Lingard also praised the long service of stalwart Brendon Rawlins, who played his 250th game for the Cougars on Good Friday.

The fans' favourite, who hails from Queensland, arrived at Cougar Park in January 2007.

Rawlins was involved in the 2009 and 2011 Championship One promotion winning squads at Keighley.

He also played his part in the iPro Sport Cup triumph against the York City Knights in Blackpool in 2016, despite a disappointing League One campaign that year.

Lingard added: "He has been a fantastic servant to the club.

"He has been here beyond my time at the club.

"To get to 250 games is a fantastic achievement and it shows his loyalty to have stuck with Keighley.

"I'm sure he will want to get to 300 games and beyond for us.

"It is great for us to have that experience as we are a young squad at Keighley Cougars."