United’s victory over Lincoln on Tuesday night took them into the last 16 of the Papa John’s Trophy, and manager Keith Millen insisted that the fact that the team is now just three steps away from a final is something they should embrace, as they wait to see who they’ll face in January’s third round fixture.
“I always try to think of some kind of theme for games, it could be anything, whatever comes to me,” he explained. “Rather than just stand there in front of the players and talk tactics, I always look for something else.
“I remembered people talking about the record the club has had in this competition, so I said to Jacob, the analyst, find me some clips and pictures of the fans at Wembley.
“So, before I even touched on tactics I showed the lads pictures of Carlisle fans at Wembley and I told them, you’re four games away from being here.
“That’s how important this game is because you don’t know where winning could take you. Don’t dismiss it, and I’m not saying we would have, but it should give us that little bit of edge that we’re in the last 16.
“It isn’t like the FA Cup third round where it’s a Premier League team and you’re up against it. We know the level of teams in the competition, so why not dream of going to Wembley?
“I mean, how many players can actually say they’ve played there? I don’t know whether or not it made a difference me doing that, but it made me feel better.”
“Cup runs give the players confidence, without a doubt,” he added. “They believe more and more in what we’re doing as it goes on, and can see a direction, so that’s great.
“That’s the foundations of winning over a long period, you have to get those building blocks in place, we are getting them in place, and that will get us in good stead.
“We’ve got a lot of league games to play, I’m not worried about that, I just want to make sure we keep building, and then we’ll be fine. I’ve got no worries about that.
“Cup runs are great for me. I just think they’re the next game, we win on Saturday, which will be a tough game, you’re in the third round, anything could happen then.
“I’ve got no worries about the games, I have to be careful with my selections to look after players, but it will only put us in better stead going forward.”
And does beating a League One add an extra level of confidence?
“It showed the next level up,” he replied. “They were very good technically with the ball, their passing, their movement, was excellent. That’s where we have to strive to be. That’s what we have to keep trying to get better at.
“The rest of it is pretty good but I’m going to keep demanding. I told them after the game that it was good to win but we have to better with the ball. We weren’t good enough with that.
“It’s not easy at the moment because we’re not training, it’s literally play a game and then recover. It’s not like we’re doing much work on the training pitch. But we will get there, and the players understand that, that we’ve got to keep improving. Over a period of time there will be a change.
“Cup runs give us more games to help with achieving that. If you have more games it means you’re winning, so I’ve got no worries about that.
“With this competition it’s a knockout competition we’re in now. It wasn’t like the Morecambe game where we were already through. This was like a one-off and I want us to try and keep the momentum going.
“That’s why there weren’t too many changes from Saturday. We’ll do the same for Shrewsbury, we’ll see who is in good shape and pick the best team we can.”