Saturday’s visitors Swindon Town ended a five-game winless run last weekend with a convincing 3-0 victory over Scunthorpe, and that kept them in touch with the play-off places and rekindled the confidence within the ranks.
The Robins boast the division’s best possession stats, and will provide another tough test for the Cumbrians who come fresh from a battle of a draw down in Colchester.
“It’s a completely different game against different opposition,” manager Keith Millen said. “Colchester are a different type of team to Swindon, in terms of how they play and where they are in the league.
“I felt it was quite a nervy game last Saturday where both teams realised the importance of it. The conditions were dreadful, and that might be the same here on Saturday.
“Swindon are a lot more possession-based, so that’s a different problem we’ve got to solve. I look at all of that and who we’ve got fit, then try and pick a team to do well.”
“I was pleased with the mindset at Colchester,” he confirmed. “I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way we played, but I felt we fought hard and battled well.
“We’re going to have to do that from now until the end of the season. Hopefully the confidence comes back after last weekend so we can be a little bit better on the ball.
“I was desperate for us to try and get a clean sheet again to try and get that mentality back, but in general the team defended ok. The two goals were in and around the box from the second phase, which is unusual for us, so we were disappointed with those, but at least they didn’t come from us being opened up in general play.”
“When I watch their games, they’re a possession side whether they’re at home or away,” he explained. “They changed their shape and formation last week, on the back of maybe having a few injuries, and they’d had that run of games without a win.
“This is a team that’s trying to get into the play-offs and it shows you every team can have these runs. I know Ben Garner really well, we worked together at Crystal Palace, he’s a friend of mine and he’s set the team up, he’s got some good footballers in there.
“It’s not rocket science, you look at the stats and they do keep it well. It doesn’t worry me, just hopefully they’re not very effective with their passing.
“Then when we do get our chances with the ball, we’ve got to be effective, which we were last Saturday. Can we take that goal threat into the game, but also be aware sometimes we might have to be a bit patient, and keep our discipline.
“On our big pitch you can’t go chasing against anyone for 90 minutes. Tactically, it’s trying to think about the best way of doing it.”
The visit of the Robins includes the return of in-form attacking midfielder Harry McKirdy, who has settled well at the County Ground.
“I don’t know him personally but some of the staff here do, and we’ve spoken about him,” he said. “He’s a threat, whether him coming back gives him more incentive, we’ll have to wait and see.
“He’s a handful and unpredictable at times. We’ll look at him and the other front men they’ve got and work with the defenders to try and deal with them.
“As far as the lad’s concerned about coming back here, who knows, it can go both ways. It can inspire someone or it can go the other way. I’ve seen players not be as effective sometimes coming back to a club. I can’t talk about another player who I don’t know or I’ve never worked with.
“I’d like to think and I’ll try to make sure that my players don’t react. Because that’s when you can get in trouble with the officials. We have to keep a clear, calm head about us.
“The main thing is we know he’s a good player, he can be dangerous and we’ve got to make sure we try and defend well against him.”
And we are all, of course, in the hands of the latest batch of weather warnings, which are predicting everything from snow to 100mph winds.
“Looking at the weather I think the bobble hat, scarf and gloves will be out on Saturday!” he joked. “We seem to have survived the storm on Wednesday and it wasn’t too bad on Thursday, so we were able to train.
“We’ll just have to see what comes, if it does snow there’s not a lot we can do. We’ll try and do as much preparation in case today is a right off and we can’t train.
“You can never tell with the weather, we’ll just have to wait and see, if it’s snowing it’s snowing and we’ll have to clear the pitch.”
“If it is on we hope the fans come down and really try and get behind us,” he commented. “When we’ve been playing well, it’s no coincidence there’s a good atmosphere here.
“Obviously I understand the anxiety around, because of where we are. It’s our job to really try and put a performance on, and when we have performed well here, they’ve got behind us. That’s all we can do.
“If we’re together as a club and a team, then you’ve got a great chance. And we’ve shown that. That’s the good ting, recently we’ve had a good run, it’s not like we’ve not had any good runs to look back on. We’ve just got to get back to where we were.
“I think it doesn’t really matter too much who the opposition are, we’ve got to make sure our performance, effort and work rate is there. If we do that we’re a good side, and I think the fans will appreciate that.”