WINNINGTON Avenue 1994 have so far defied expectation on their debut season in the Cheshire League, according to manager Lewis Wood.

He told the Guardian that his players have in part been motivated by predictions from outside the club that they would struggle after stepping up from a lower level.

However a 5-2 win at St Helens Town reserves last time out has propelled them in to the League Two table’s top-half before a meeting with fellow newcomers Holmes Chapel on Saturday.

It is a feat made more impressive by the fact they failed to win at all during August.

“We had a rough start,” said Wood.

“And we’ve still got lots to learn, but things are coming together now.”

He said that a 4-3 defeat against Ashton Town reserves, a game they had led 3-1 early in the second-half, has been a turning point.

They had only five points on the board following the final whistle that afternoon, a tally they have trebled after losing only one of their past half-dozen games.

And Wood, who took over from Joe Penny as the team’s manager over the summer, has sensed a change of mood in the dressing room.

He added: “We’ve done a lot of stuff together to bring us closer, and it’s definitely helped.

“The guys look forward to their football on a Saturday and spending time together.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done so far because we were told we’d get smashed and struggle to compete.

“In fact the opposite has been true; nobody has outclassed us and we’ve run the best teams in the division really close.”

Despite sitting seventh at Christmas, Wood insists their objectives for the campaign won’t change.

They want to consolidate, while a meeting with landlords Lostock Gralam in the Mid-Cheshire District FA Saturday Challenge Cup in February is an opportunity to make another statement on their progress.

After all Wood himself only turned 21 last month and, like his players, is figuring things out on the job.

He said: “The plan was for me to take over in the future but Joe became a dad and had to put his family first.

“I was doing a lot for him and in some ways have just carried that on.

“The lads have been great, and I think I’ve only had to give them a roasting once!

“There is mutual respect; if I give it to them, then they return the favour.

“That said it is still strange having to be firm with guys that are 10 years older than I am.”

January could be a defining month.

Winnington, fifth in the Crewe and District League's top-flight last season, play three matches against teams below them in the table.

Their other fixture is against Club AZ, who sit fourth.