Carlisle boss Chris Beech admitted on Tuesday that his players are right on the brink of getting back to the type of energetic and full-tilt displays they were producing prior to an enforced January closedown which saw them miss four weeks of action.
“We were there, we were pressing and pushing for 90 minutes, and then the unfortunate thing of missing so many games kicked in for us,” he said. “If you speak to any person that’s experienced in football, it takes a good half dozen games to get to that feeling, and it is frustrating for us that we were in it.
“It was pleasing we responded ever so well against Exeter to get the three points. It’s very good to have a very good opponent on the back foot who are in rhythm. Well done, but since the day I got in here, I like winning.
“I like seeing good things in the last third, I like turnovers and control, we just lacked a bit of that even when we were attacking on Tuesday.
“We just have to accept it, that’s the journey I keep telling everybody that we try and go on, and it’s a diversion we haven’t asked for. It’s been given to us, we have to deal with it. We have to stop, fill the car up, eat the egg sandwiches and get the kids asking me are we there yet - but we can’t play again on Saturday, which is unfortunate, but what we can do is work very hard and get ready for Leyton Orient when we play again.”
“At the moment we’re working hard to get back to the point where you have an edge, in terms of your fitness levels,” he continued. “It’s the most difficult point to get to where you’ve extended your legs, lungs and heart, but you can then go a little further.
“We saw what this group was like when they were all pushing into the red zones, as I call them, and we’ll get back to that. What we do is train really hard so that we’re actually comfortable working in the red zones, and they make good decisions because of that, when they’re at the top of their fitness.
“We are right on the edge of it at the moment, to be honest with you, but that’s why it’s important to utilise the squad. I thought the substitutes made a good impact, overall there was good effort, and it nearly all came together for us.
“We hit the post, we scored a great goal, and we got beat by a penalty and a free kick against a very good team. Their two best chances came when we were chasing for an equaliser, so in terms of clear-cut chances for them they were contained. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get what we all wanted which were some points on the board.”
And in terms of challenges, it’s just another that has to be faced and dealt with.
“The other obstacle we’ve got is training outside on a full pitch, which is difficult at the moment,” he confirmed. “It’s good that we had the reserve game on Wednesday.
“Everyone will rest on Thursday and we’ll look to try and get a game amongst ourselves on Saturday to try and get the lads in rhythm.
“When you’re working to pre-season you’re working on good surfaces and in nicer weather. At the moment we have everything that isn’t correct to be correct. We never use it as an excuse to be correct. That’s where we are. We have to accept that and just make sure we eat well, sleep well, train hard and get ready for our next opportunity.
“We’d rather be playing Cheltenham on Saturday than have another game off. It’s a bit like getting ready to go for a run, putting your trainers on and you get out the door and somebody stops you, then says you can go, then stops you again.
“We want to play football, it isn’t our fault we can’t play on Saturday. We’ll work hard despite that so everybody can get game time in their legs, then we can crack on and get ready for Leyton Orient.”
And we put the point to him that one thing this group does give him is a response when they’ve had a slap in the face.
“They’re easy comments those in football,” he insisted. “I’ve said to the lads what they have to do is understand no matter how you feel after or before a game, you can only ever change it while you’re in it.
“You can only ever really win or lose anything in the game. You’ve got to make sure when we come back to the opportunity of being able to play … Aaron was talking about it in the changing room, because we’ve seen a very emphatic celebration from Forest Green on two occasions.
“If they want to do that, that’s what they want to do. We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out over the next 23 games. We’ve got 42 points in 23 matches, we’re at the halfway point now which is normally Boxing Day, we can look to try and repeat or go beyond the standards that we’ve been at, it’s going to be a massive effort, and if we can do what we do there’ll be some good news at the end of it.”