KNUTSFORD’S hockey players are further up the table than they expected at this stage of the season.

The Black Knights have won eight of their 11 matches to date in the North West Men’s League’s top-flight and are four points clear at the table’s summit.

Promotion back to the level above, from which they dropped down in 2010, is within their reach.

“We hoped to challenge,” said Tom Howard, who replaced Dave Price as first-team captain this term.

“But the first-half of the campaign has gone beyond that.

“The encouraging thing for us is that I still feel as though we have more gears to go through.”

They finished fourth last season, when back-to-back defeats at the beginning of March ended a bid to win the title.

Price’s departure, along with one or two others, led to the recruitment of new players.

Howard told the Guardian they have been able deputies for those who have left.

He added: “We knew they’d need time to bed in, and we were prepared for that.

“However I’ve been most pleased with how quickly things have come together.

“Already we’ve played one or two games that we would have drawn or lost in the past only to take maximum points this time around.

“The guys are friends, and that’s brought them closer as a group.

“I still feel we can improve, and if we’re fortunate to go up then we can’t continue to rely on one or two ideas.

“We’d need to become more adaptable, and that would make us an even stronger side than now.”

There is work to do when Knutsford resume their Division One campaign on Sunday afternoon.

Second-placed Colwyn Bay visit Westfield Drive for a rearranged fixture after the original was postponed earlier this month.

After that Howard’s men take on two more teams in the table’s top-six; City of Manchester and neighbours Winnington Park.

He added: “It would be amazing for the club to return to the North League.

“I’m sure it would make people acknowledge again that Knutsford is a fantastic, welcoming club to be part of.

“It’s an exciting time; the men’s second and third teams are enjoying good seasons too, and like us they’re pushing to be promoted to the next level.

“The ladies are also having their best year for a while, so things are moving in the right direction.”

Fixtures for Saturday:

Cheshire Women's League

Division Two

Macclesfield 2nd v Knutsford (push-back 3pm)

North West Men's League

Division Four South

Colwyn Bay 2nd v Knutsford 2nd (push-back tbc)

Fixtures for Sunday:

Cheshire Women's League

Division Two

Knutsford v Crewe Vagrants 2nd (push-back 10.30am)

North West Men's League

Division One

Knutsford v Colwyn Bay (push-back tbc)