LEE Duckworth has admitted Winsford United continue to be inconsistent but remains confident they can challenge for a top-six finish.

A 3-0 defeat at home to Bootle on Monday was their second in succession, although the player-manager told the Guardian that Blues’ performance had been better than the result suggests.

His side target a return to winning ways in a rearranged fixture at AFC Darwen tonight, Thursday.

They will not want to head into a weekend that pits them first against Runcorn Town on Saturday and then title-favourites Atherton Collieries 48 hours later on the back of three straight losses.

“We’ve been up and down,” said Duckworth.

“We weren’t at the races against Irlam last week, but nearly pinched a point we wouldn’t have deserved.

“I felt we did well on Monday, and deserved more than we got.

“The team we’ve assembled is still learning, and hopefully that will bode well for the future if they show loyalty to the club and agree to stay next season.

“Our target is the same; we want to finish as high as we can because that will reflect the hard work that these lads have put in.

“It would be a waste otherwise.”

The teams had been due to meet last weekend, only for the match to be postponed when heavy rainfall left the pitch waterlogged at Darwen’s Anchor Ground.

The hosts have since lost 3-0 there when Runcorn Town visited on Tuesday.

It leaves them 10 points clear of the North West Counties League Premier Division’s relegation zone with nine matches left.

Winsford were boosted on Monday by the return of versatile defender Adam Bayley following a spell out of the game.

Goalkeeper Michael Langley also made his first start since returning to St Luke’s Barton Stadium from Runcorn Town.

Danny Egan (knee) is ruled out by an injury, but midfielder Dale Jennings hopes to make his first appearance since a draw at Squires Gate last month.