An already competitive squad will be further bolstered on Friday morning with the return of midfielder Dean Furman and striker Josh Kayode from international duty.
Furman, a veteran within the South African ranks, picked up another two caps whilst Kayode blossomed with the Ireland squad, bagging his first goal and an assist into the bargain.
“Our internationals have flown home, they’re good,” the manager confirmed this morning. “JJ scored for the Republic of Ireland and it’s good that he scored.
“I spoke to him last night, shared a little joke with him, and we’re due to see him train with us tomorrow. Dean had a long flight back from South Africa, he was struggling yesterday to get back from London to Manchester with an internal flight, but I think he’s made it home.
“They’ll get coronavirus tested and will be back with us, so we’ll see how we go for the weekend.”
With both players having featured heavily for their respective teams, we wondered if that had made their absences worthwhile.
“I’ll be honest, I do see it as an inconvenience, even more so in this current climate,” he replied. “But Dean’s playing for his national team, he’s an absolute legend out there and has only moved back to the UK because he’s got a new born and wants to be back in this country and bring his family up in England.
“He got the opportunity to go back there. He’s played so many big games for them, he’s got legendary status there, he would have been daft not to have done that from a personal perspective.
“JJ, it’s an opportunity to get involved in his national team for the under-21s, and he did great. He’s had to be patient because the last time he got called up he didn’t get on the pitch.
“This time he affected a goal in a bit of pitch time, then started and scored. Obviously I’d have preferred if he had a Carlisle shirt scoring that goal and I said to him, I’m knocking on the door now Josh, I’m like a debt collector, you’ve played a dozen games for us, we want our goals now!”
“With these lads back it puts us in an even better position,” he added. “It’s great, really good, but I just know in football that it’s important to work even harder so that you do keep pushing on.
“We’ve all spoken and said we should have had a point against Cheltenham, but I deal in facts. We’re all human, and you do look at what might have been, and there’s no doubt we should have more points than what we’ve got right now.
“I remember talking to the press at Scunthorpe about the fact we should have had all three points and we had none. We played for 35 minutes at Exeter with 10 men and we were in no danger at that point, we were the stronger team.
“I’m pleased we’ve been able to beat teams at the top end of the table because I think that’s something the club hasn’t been able to do for a long time. We beat Newport when they were top, Port Vale hadn’t been beaten at home since 2019, but we managed to do that.
“The more pleasing thing in all of it when we’re talking about two or three players coming back is the fact that the younger players represented themselves so well the other day against a young Aston Villa team.
“It’s good for the club to have competitive spirit in its dressing room and we’ve got to make sure we keep it going and look to enhance it.”
The levels of confidence in the dressing room mean that the team is going into every game expecting a victory, a trait which has been more than noticeable, particularly in recent weeks.
“I don’t think you should fear anybody and that includes the fact we’ve been fortunate enough to get a great FA Cup tie against Doncaster,” he said. “It’s something to look forward to, not to fear.
“If anything the lads probably fear my standards and making sure we come up to them. We want people who want to play and it was great to see Micah Obiero running freely like he was, Omari Patrick getting the header in, Gime setting a goal up and scoring one, so there were good things to see on Tuesday.
“We’re getting more positive challenges towards getting what we’re all after, which is three points. Tuesday night we were up against a young Aston Villa team, they did have two games on the same day because they were playing England as well.
“I spoke to the lads before the game and said we wanted to set a tempo rather than it be like an extended academy game. They applied themselves correctly. Some of the younger players, it was great to see them on the pitch.
“The older ones, Rhys Bennett looked very good, even though it’s his first start since February. Danny Devine was excellent, really good at right-back.
“Then Gav Reilly got his goal. I said to him, you’re going to play, best thing to do is get straight back on the horse. There are rules and regs of how many senior players have to play, but I thought it was best for him to be out there because , he knows he should have scored against Cheltenham.
“I told him that you could quite easily be sat in the manager’s room speaking to me on half a dozen goals, but you’re not. So keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure it will fall into place. He scored the other day, that’s great news.
“Micah, he’s on-loan from Huddersfield, he’s made a good impression and he’s starting to look ly sharp in training. I told him I wanted him to run that much and fast that your beard blows off your chin, and he did. It’s the most ground he’s covered.
“His goal was excellent – he picked the ball up in a tight space, drove at the opponent, gave a great ball to Gime and instead of admiring it, like a lot of young players do, he’s got to get in that box and move again, and he did. The ball fell to him - it’s not luck, that’s good habits, and a great finish at the end of it.”