WAYNE Goodison has said it was no surprise 1874 Northwich beat Congleton Town because his players have proven repeatedly they can match the best teams.

They are in form too, and have now lost only one of their past dozen North West Counties League matches.

“We created more chances and deserved to win,” was the co-manager’s verdict on a 3-2 win at Barton Stadium last weekend.

“The lads know what they’re capable of, and they reacted in exactly the way we wanted after Congleton came back into the game and made it 2-2.

“We raised our game again, something we’ve done previously against the top sides, and there is a sense – with the exception of the first-half performances at Litherland and Padiham – that we’re almost back to the standards we set at our peak last season.”

1874 have done a double over the Bears this season and also beat third-placed Bootle when the teams met in September.

Draws away to City of Liverpool and Burscough are examples too of positive results against high-flying rivals.

In fact, only Runcorn from the table’s top-six have bettered Northwich since a disastrous defeat on the season’s opening day against the Purps.

A slender defeat at Stockport County in the Cheshire FA Senior Cup in midweek, when the National League North side needed a last-gasp goal to eliminated 10-man 1874, featured a promising display too.

Goodison said: “Our frustration is that we’ve not done ourselves justice in other games when we’ve perhaps been expected to win.”

A sluggish start, which saw them record a first win at only the seventh attempt when they squeezed past Litherland in September, has proven costly.

Despite an improved run of results since October, they enter the weekend occupying 11th position in the Premier Division table.

However a distance to fourth-placed Barnoldswick is only six points and that is an incentive to beat Irlam tomorrow afternoon.

“We’re not sure what to expect from them,” said Goodison.

“I’ve seen them a couple of times this season and I was impressed with how good they are going forward.

“They carry a threat, and if we’re not right then they’ll do us some damage.

“However they’ve made progress in the FA Vase and we’re only too aware of the impact that can have on the group.

“It’s a challenge to keep everybody fully focused when there is such a big game around the corner.”