BLACKBURN Hawks coach Steve Duncombe believes his side have the character to challenge the best sides in the NIHL Moralee Conference this season.

The Hawks began their league campaign with a victory last weekend, twice coming from behind to beat Billingham Stars 3-2.

It was a win that Duncombe admits might not have happened last season but the Hawks chief, whose side were beaten by Solway Sharks in the cup seven days ago, is confident his side now have the mentality to match their potential.

Ahead of a repeat match-up with Billingham in the NIHL Cup tonight (5.45pm) and a league trip to Whitley Warriors tomorrow (5pm), Duncombe said: "I was really pleased with the boys last weekend.

"We showed a lot of depth and character to win the league game. Last season when we went behind a few heads might have dropped and we perhaps wouldn't have recovered but we did that really well against Billingham.

"Even in the cup game we were well in the game and I don't think the 8-5 scoreline reflects that.

"We just tired towards the end as we are still a bit short on numbers and that made the difference."

Duncombe admits he is still looking to strengthen his squad if he can and believes the cup competition, run as a round-robin in the early stages, is offering his side a chance to get up to speed.

He added: "We need a couple of games like that under our belt just to build our fitness levels.

"We have been training for a number of weeks but it is game time on the ice that matters.

"We have a full strength squad for the weekend with Tom Parkinson hopefully fit to return."

Having got their league campaign up and running, Duncombe now wants the same story in the cup.

"I would like to win the competition," he said.

"The league and the play-offs are the main priority but the cup is a trophy at the end of the day and I would like to bring some silverware back to Blackburn.

"We've obviously played Billingham once already so know what to expect and we know it will be a tough game.

"But it was one we are confident of winning if we play well and hopefully that can give us some momentum heading to Whitley on Sunday."