Manager Ian Evatt has impressed upon his Barrow AFC players that they are going to have to up their game further if they are to maintain their position at the top of the National League, starting with tomorrow’s home game against Barnet.

The Bluebirds are in uncharted territory, as they’ve never been at the summit of English football’s fifth tier at this stage of a season, which has come off the back of a run of ten wins in their last 11 league games.

With two games at Holker Street coming up in the next week, this represents a great chance for AFC to forge ahead of what is tightly congested chasing pack.

Evatt believes his side’s statue as leaders will cause opponents to raise their game against them, having previously felt they’ve gone under the radar during their rise up the division, and has challenged his players to do the same.

He said: “We can’t rest on our laurels and be complacent because teams are going to want to beat us now.

“We are the league leaders, so at this minute we are the best team in the league and that puts a huge target on your back. Teams are going to raise their game when they come and play us and we’re going to have to do the same.

“The good thing, and the exciting thing, for me, even after last Saturday [at Notts County] is there’s still so much more improvement still to come in this team - they’re a young group and a young team who are still learning and still improving.”

The 3-0 dismantling of Notts County at Meadow Lane meant that the Bluebirds’ squad went into their Christmas party (they had it early so they could concentrate on next month’s games) in the best of spirits.

They have, however, been pretty level headed about that superb result against the Magpies, which reduces the possibility of them becoming complacent when they welcome Barnet to Holker Street.

Although the Bees are 15th in the table, they are still very much in the hunt for a play-off place, with the tight nature of the division having them just five points behind seventh-placed Harrogate.

Evatt said: “I think they’ve got some players who are very dangerous. I think they’re possession-based and they’re very similar to what we were earlier in the season, or how we were at stages of last season, in terms of having a lot of the ball, but that final decision, that cutting edge, isn’t there and they’re conceding bad goals.

“That will change because they’re a good team and they’ve got some very good players, so they’re dangerous.

“Bad runs have to end sooner rather than later - Sutton showed that with their performance against us and then they’ve gone and beat Torquay away, so it’s a tight league.

“We have to respect them we do respect them because they are very dangerous, but if we play to our standards then we give ourselves a really good chance.”

Having reached the top, Barrow are relishing the challenge of staying there, as they look to finally end a 48-year stretch outside of the Football League.

“We’ve kind of got there quicker than we thought, given we didn’t get off to the best of starts this season,” Evatt said.

“That wasn’t down to not performing, I think was down to just individual errors and not being clinical enough in both boxes, but since then we’ve been on an incredible run and the players are full of confidence.”