ANTHONY MURRAY saluted North Wales Crusaders' game management as they continued their push for a League One play-off place.

Crusaders were forced to dig deep to beat Keighley Cougars 14-6 at a sun-soaked Queensway Stadium, tries from Karl Ashall and Earl Hurst securing an important two points.

Keighley, who have managed to get themselves in the black after starting the campaign on -12 points, put Crusaders, missing the likes of Brad Brennan, Stephen Wild and Rob Massam, under the pump, but the hosts held firm to come out on top.

"It was a real tough game and I didn't expect any different," said Murray. "They have managed to wipe out their points deduction, so it shows that we've beaten a team who are in-form.

"It was important to win because it keeps us in the race for the play-offs, but it was also good to win in the manner we did because Keighley threw a lot at us.

"We defended as a unit and it was really pleasing to only concede one try as we backed up a good performance against Whitehaven with another win.

"It was really pleasing to watch our game management. Our completion rate was high and we didn't put ourselves under any unnecessary pressure by conceding penalties.

"After the first 20 minutes we managed to get a foothold in the game, we scored a try and then we've managed to go in at the break 8-6 up."

Ben Stead kicked the penalty that handed Crusaders a half-time advantage, a decision Murray was more than happy with.

Asked about opting to kick for goal, Murray said: "It was 100 per cent the right call. There were 38 minutes on the clock and going in-front at half-time gives you a mental advantage."

Ashall extended that advantage by scoring his side's second try soon after the restart, the hooker shining in an unfamiliar role at loose-forward due to a number of absences.

"It shows our strength in-depth," said Murray. "We were without a lot of experience with Brad, Rob and Stephen missing, but we managed to get the win we wanted.

"Karl played really well at 13 and it gives me a welcome selection headache going forward."

Speaking of headaches, experienced prop Jonny Walker lost his two front teeth during the game, but returned to action to help Crusaders close out the victory.

Murray added: "He came back on, got stuck in again and ran himself into the ground."

Next-up for Crusaders is a home clash with Workington, who are one place and two points better off than the Welsh outfit having played a game more.

"It's a great opportunity for us," said Murray. "We need to look after our home form, and if we can pinch some points on the road, then we will be in good shape.

"But it's no time to get carried away and we will take each game as it comes."