Joe Dunne believes his Colchester United side have become a tough nut to crack.

And the U’s boss wants his players to show their steel when they host Preston North End tomorrow.

Dunne admits his team were a “soft touch” during a club-record nine-match losing run.

However, he thinks they have shown a more resilient side in recent matches and wants them to prove it, against a powerful Preston side.

Dunne said: “I think we’ve been a soft touch in the past but now I think we’re making teams earn what they get.

“It’s about staying in games and the first goal is crucial - we’ve seen that in our last three games.

“A lot can happen between now and the end of the season.

“We’ve got a difficult fixture list coming up now so it’s tough but our confidence is high.”

See Friday's Gazette for more on this story and all of the latest Colchester United news, including a full preview of the U's home match with Preston North End tomorrow.