LEE Duckworth has backed his players to be at their best when they take on the title favourites tomorrow.

He told the Guardian a trip to table-toppers Atherton Collieries, who extended a winning sequence in the North West Counties League to 13 matches last weekend, is the sort of occasion Blues usually rise to.

“We relish being an underdog,” he said.

“My lads have no pressure on them, and tend to perform better when they’re carefree.

“As a young group, they’re perhaps not as confident when they’re expected to win.

“We’re not daft, and we know Colls – who most people are tipping to go up this season – are a flying.

“It won’t be easy for us, but their run has to end at some point.”

Blues will be without defender Sam Parr and captain Kyle Riley, who both serve bans, while Danny Kerr is ruled out by an injury.

However they have been boosted this week by the arrival of Ryan Steele from Maine Road.

A midfielder, he impressed for the Manchester outfit when they played against Winsford back in October.

Danny Egan and Brandon Moores are on course for a recall too after returning to training following injury lay-offs.

Front man Nathan Cotterell could feature as well.

He was due to feature against promotion-hopefuls Bootle last weekend, only for the match to be postponed when heavy overnight rain left the playing surface waterlogged at St Luke’s Barton Stadium.

It leaves Blues starting a new month just outside the Premier Division’s top 10.

However with five of eight games during March scheduled to be in front of their own supporters, they can be confident of climbing the table further.

Duckworth has cautioned against looking too far ahead though.

He added: “The fixture list at this time of year is always busy, and things can change quickly if you pick up an injury or somebody is suspended.

“It’s true we have a run of matches against sides below us in the table, but I prefer to be pragmatic.

“If we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll likely get bitten on the backside.”