KNUTSFORD’S players are performing better on the pitch because they no longer feel out of place at a higher level, according to co-manager Jamie Mottershead.

He told the Guardian that an improved run of results since the turn of the year, which has seen Reds win five of their eight Cheshire League matches, is proof they now believe in themselves.

“They’ve had to adjust like we have,” he said, referring to the fact that he and fellow boss Jordan Gunter are picking a team in the Premier Division for the first time too this season.

“We came in a bit blind and perhaps got caught out earlier on trying to do things that had worked well for us in the past.

“After stopping the rot, we’ve now been able to play the way we’d like.”

The arrival of Milan Thompson to lead their attack has made a difference too.

He has scored seven goals in 13 appearances and, supported from wide positions by the likes of Sam Croft and Tom Jackson, is likely to add to that total before the end of the season.

Reds, who host back-markers Denton Town on Saturday, have risen to fifth in the table from a position in the bottom-half at Christmas.

They may also yet finish the campaign holding a trophy with a date against Rawdon Old Boys in the Northern Counties FA Senior Cup final to follow before the end of the month.

Mottershead said: “If we can finish in the top eight then that would be higher than we expected at the start of the season.

“A win in the cup final would be the icing on the cake.

“We sense that there are people outside of the club that expected us to fail in a big way.

“That’s not happened, and we’ve given ourselves something to build on for next season.”

Asked to reveal the secret to Reds’ success after a sluggish start, Mottershead said a tone set in the dressing room had helped.

Along with Gunter, he took over at a club that had won a historic double last season after adding the Cheshire FA Amateur Cup to a fourth league title in the space of seven seasons.

He added: “We didn’t want lads to be weighed down by that and so we’ve taken away that pressure of expectation.

“All they’ve had to worry about is learning from their mistakes when they’ve made them and their confidence has grown as a result.”

Knutsford will take on Rawdon Old Boys, who lead the way in the West Yorkshire League’s top-flight, at Vauxhall Motors on Saturday, March 30.