CRAIG Lingard says there are fringe benefits to his side breaking their red-hot league run in favour of cup action.

Cougars are set to be struck by Thunder twice in the next three weeks, starting this weekend.

Cougars take a break from Betfred League One action when they travel to face Newcastle Thunder on Saturday (2.30pm kick-off) in the first round of the inaugural 1895 Cup.

This is the first half of a double header against the North East club, with a league fixture against Thunder following on Sunday, May 19. In between Lingard's men will enjoy a blank weekend due to the Challenge Cup sixth round.

The 1895 Cup will be played between League One and Championship teams. Round two will introduce the 12 English teams from the Championship. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will follow in June an July with the final to be played at Wembley Stadium on August 24, the day of the Challenge Cup final.

Lingard is set to give his fringe players a chance to step out of the shadows for in-form Cougars' cup clash this weekend.

Cougars warmed up for the cup tie with a 32-26 victory over Workington Town at Cougar Park last Sunday. It was Cougars' fourth-successive league victory and puts them onto -1 as they have almost eradicated their -12-point pre-season punishment for a change of ownership. Indeed, if it wasn't for this points deduction Cougars would now be top of the league on points difference.

He said: "It's a good thing to be in the cup. It comes after our last couple of weeks and two really tough games. It's a weekend off afterwards.

"It gives us an opportunity to give a few people a rest, giving fringe players a chance.

"It gives other players the chance to know that they are still in our thoughts at the club.

"It has been difficult to give them a game with everyone playing as well as we are. The fringe players have been really supportive to the ones that have been playing.

"It's a strange one to be playing Newcastle twice in three weeks. Do they want to do what we're going to do and save people and prioritise the league game, I don't know. They have a new coach and they are still learning under him and what he wants.

"They are a strong side. After a slow start they are picking up. We were fortunate last season to go to Newcastle and get the victory. They are a quality team with quality individuals."

Lingard says even he has been surprised by his side's brilliant start to the season, saying the squad he assembled at the last minute was full of players who had a points to prove.

He added: "We didn't get the squad together until three weeks before the season started.

"It can take six to eight weeks for the lads to get used to playing together. The lads have come together a lot quicker than expected, or hoped.

"We've have got the -12 points down in double quick time. I didn't expect it to happen this quickly. I put it down to the character of the players. We've been dubbing ourselves the misfits, a squad full of people who wanted to prove a point.

"They are really good people with a good work ethic."

Meanwhile, Benn Hardcastle has been handed a two-match suspension after being found guilty of a Grade C Reckless High Tackle during Cougars' victory over Doncaster on Good Friday.

The stand-off will miss both of Cougars' upcoming trips to Newcastle Thunder in the 1895 Cup on Saturday and Betfred League One on Sunday, May 19.

Jimmy Beckett has re-joined Cougars on loan for the remainder of the 2019 season from Featherstone Rovers.

The prop was recalled in late March by his parent club and made two appearances for Rovers before arriving back at Cougar Park last week.

Cougars fans also held a minute's applause in the sixth minute of their side's win over Workington Town in memory of former player Danny Jones, who died on May 3, 2015.