Durham City will today provide high-flying Carlisle City with a trickier test than many expect, manager Jim Nichols predicts.

Ahead of this afternoon’s match (3pm kick-off), the Sky Blues sit fourth in Northern League, Division Two, having come from two goals behind to earn a 2-2 draw against second-placed Redcar Athletic last Saturday.

Rob McCartney struck in the first half, before Jordan Palmer fired home a late leveller.

The Citizens are second bottom in the league and have only taken seven points from 14 league fixtures so far this term.

But Nichols said: “Obviously, Durham are not doing particularly well in the league. But my understanding is they have brought in a few players in the last couple of weeks.

“They have only scored 13 [league] goals, but I think they have got nine of them in the last five league games.

“So they have, obviously, improved a bit recently.

"They got beaten in the League Cup on Wednesday [going down to a 5-0 defeat at Willington], but it was a very, very changed side. So, I don’t think we can read too much into that.

“I think it will be a tougher game than a lot of people think.

"It’s important we approach it right, otherwise we could find ourselves on the end of a beating which is the last thing we want after the run we’ve been on.”

City are also looking forward to returning to action at Gillford Park.

“We have had a few on the road recently,” said Nichols.

“But I think we are starting to make Gillford Park a little bit of a fortress.

“We are very, very difficult to play against there, and teams – particularly at this sort of time of year – they don’t want to travel across to Carlisle from the North-east, travelling for a couple of hours on the bus.

“I think that plays into our hands a little bit.”