Carlisle United boss Steven Pressley expects a "really, really tough" test against a Crewe side who he feels deserve their place among the early League Two frontrunners.

Tomorrow’s fourth-placed visitors have lost just once on their travels and sit a point off top spot.

David Artell’s side have chalked up seven victories so far and are also unbeaten in four.

It represents a challenge for 18th-placed Carlisle as they bid to record a third home win of the league campaign, with Pressley highlighting the Railwaymen’s strong stats.

Pressley said: “If you look at some of the statistics, they [Crewe] are the third-highest passers in the league, which you’d expect of Crewe.

“They’ve also scored the second highest amount of goals.

“What has been maybe pointed at Crewe’s teams before is that they are a passing team but maybe not as effective in goalscoring – but they certainly are that this year.

“They have got the fifth highest amount of shots on target. They’re a team that’s really effective in what they do. They’ve got really good balance; four or five really good young players from their academy, assisted by some experienced players.

"They are a good footballing side but also have the option of [Chris] Porter up top - if pressurised, they can go long. There is a good balance to their play and I think he [Artell] has done a great job there."

United's boss added: “They are a club that seems to go in cycles. It takes maybe two or three years to build the team, then they have a really good season, then unfortunately for them they lose a lot of key young players to the bigger clubs, then have to start that cycle again.

“This seems to be that third year cycle where they’ve got a lot of good, young players and a good balance. In many aspects they are a very good team.”

Pressley said Crewe are “without doubt” realistic promotion contenders and said he has referred to their stats when talking to his own players, to “make them aware” of the challenge tomorrow.

He added: "This is a really, really tough game against one of the league’s best sides.

“It is one that, again, we can’t wait to play, because we have a good feeling about our group after last Saturday’s performance.”