ANDY Gabriel has been in scintillating form according to Keighley Cougars’ head coach Craig Lingard, and he has praised the winger’s performances over the past few games.

Lingard enthused: “When he’s on form and full of confidence, he’s a great player.

“The last four or five games that he’s played he’s been outstanding going forward.

“He’s not the biggest of guys but he carries well above his weight and with the pace he’s got when he gets through the defensive line, there’s not many better.

“He’s a massive asset for us on that left wing.”

Gabriel scored two tries in Cougars’ impressive 34-14 victory at Newcastle Thunder on Sunday, with Lingard claiming that the winger was unlucky to have a hat-trick try ruled out.

It was a minor complaint on a fine day for Lingard’s side and he had no hesitation in calling the performance his side’s “best of the season”.

The great day for the Cougars also included a debut try from new signing Darrell Griffin.

Cougars’ win puts them up to sixth place in the Betfred League One table on eight points, the same tally as three other teams; Whitehaven, Workington Town and Hunslet.

These teams are only two points behind leaders Doncaster, second-placed Bradford Bulls and York City Knights in third.

Lingard’s men continued their great start to the campaign at Thunder, with their fourth victory from their opening seven league matches.

Their success against a strong Thunder side will stand them in good stead for this weekend’s home clash, against another play-off rival in Whitehaven.

Lingard said: “We spoke as a group about the importance of beating these teams around us.

“Every game is a four-point game against them because if you get two points off them, they have to get four points to get back above you.

“It’s great that we got that win at Newcastle but the home form for us has got to be paramount. We’ve got to protect that as much as we can.

“If we can beat Whitehaven on Sunday, which will be difficult because they’ve won their last six, it sets us up for those games against some of the less fancied teams in the division.”

Lingard confirmed that he expected there to be some absentees for the weekend clash.

He lamented: “Ben Morris is probably going to be missing for about a month. We think that he’s broken or fractured some ribs. We’ve got to look at Ritchie Hawkyard too.

“He gets knocked every single game he plays and he’s coming up to the latter part of his career so we need to look after him.

“It’s the same with Scott Law. He hyper-extended his elbow at the weekend but we strapped it up and he went back on so we’re hoping he’ll be okay. But Cameron Leeming came in for his first game of the season on Sunday and he came through unscathed.”

Lingard’s men follow up Sunday’s home clash with Whitehaven, with a visit of third-from-bottom Coventry Bears to Cougar Park on Sunday, May 6, hoping to continue their fine start to the season.