United face high-flying Exeter City at Brunton Park tomorrow afternoon with the Grecians in a fine vein of form, but manager Paul Simpson spoke this week about the approach he expects to see from a home team that is also enjoying itself out on the pitch.
“It’s a game we prepare for in exactly the same way as we have since I got here,” he explained. “We’ll do the same things. We’ve talked about what Exeter will do, and we’ll look at that again before the game, but really it’s always about us.
“It’s about how we go about it. That’s how I’ve done it and it’s how I’ll continue to do it. I really don’t see the need to change it.
“It’s more just about keeping the messages simple and being consistent in what we do. We’ve talked before about changes that have been made in personnel and people being moved into different positions, but within that I think we’ve had consistency in the way we’ve done things.
“The shape of it might look slightly different, but I’d call that a tweak as opposed to a change, because we’re tweaking things within a consistent shape. Sometimes that’s just to see if we can get a result and a different type of response from the players.”
“With the players and ability we have we shouldn’t ever go into a game fearing anybody,” he added. “This group of players deserve to be playing in League Two at the moment and I think it’s a fairly level playing field.
“Over the season we haven’t been as consistent as we would have liked to be, certainly over the first run of games, but we have found those performances in this run of nine games we’ve just had.
“We have to make sure we do what we can to make it a 15-game run. I think these players are good enough to compete with any team in this league and that’s what they’re sent out to do.
“There’s no point just talking about it, they have to do it. It’s when there’s a crowd and you’re out there on the grass that it really matters.
“They all want to see you do well and it’s how we deal with that against a good Exeter side that determines the result. I’d like to think they’ve looked at us recently and they’re thinking that we’re a good team as well.”
The visitors have some standout performers, so do we pay any close to attention to them as we look to impose ourselves on the 90 minutes?
“Again, no,” he replied. “It’s their shape, they style they play with and it’s the way they play their game that we consider.
“They’ve ground out some results of late, which is what this league is about, and that’s the same at every level at this stage of a season. It’s not about how you do it, it’s about getting points.
“I always think that if your performance is right, the result will come. But with this amount of games to go it can sometimes just be about grinding out results.
“Exeter have a spirit about them, it’s why they are where they are, and they have those individuals who are playing well. We have to make sure our individuals come out on top.
“Without doubt it will be a good test and it’s a chance for us to stick our marker down and show how far we’ve come. I look at what we’ve done in March, and I know the league table doesn’t show it, but what we’ve done in March is the best in this league.
“From where we were, I don’t know what other points anybody has got, but this group of players and staff have been the best in March. We started at a real low point and we’ve given ourselves a huge lift with the way the players have gone about it.”
And previous games against teams at the top of the division have shown that the Cumbrians are ready to do all sides of the game as they look to continue their own run.
“We’ve competed, and that’s been a big factor in the points we’ve won,” he agreed. “It was something in the first 31 games we hadn’t really done, hadn’t really competed, but we’ve shown we can.
“We did it away from home at Tranmere against a top side, we did it against Northampton. We lost against Newport, I thought we competed really well and finished the game strongly, and this will be another big test for us that we’ve got to go and show what we’re all about.
“Unfortunately the nine games we’ve had so far won’t give us a head start against Exeter - we’ve got to make sure we start the game properly, go about our business properly and hopefully come away with a positive result.”
“We know it’ll be a tough game,” he continued. “We know they’re a good side, they’ve been really consistent over this season.
“We’ve matched that over nine games, and there’s no reason why we won’t again. What a great game and challenge for our players to go and show where we’re at now, not where the league table shows us, but where we are as a group of people, and see if we can consider ourselves as better than the league table.
“We’ve just got to go and challenge ourselves to see where we are, and it’s one where we have to start the game well. We know if we give them a head start, chances are we’re probably going to be coming away with our tails between our legs.
“We have to start the game properly, play at a tempo, to play with a bit of fire in our belly that gives us something to hang onto, and that’s the way I want to go about it.”
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