Agree with it being tagged as a ‘Cumbrian derby’ or not, one thing that can’t be denied is that this is an important game for both clubs as United head to Barrow on Saturday.
With ten left to play the relegation zone is too close for comfort, with every point valuable, whatever the circumstances surrounding the game.
“I think this game would have an edge anyway, because of the local rivalry, but there’s also a lot at stake this time,” manager Paul Simpson said. “We can give ourselves a massive lift with more important points, and it would certainly keep us away from the bottom teams. That has to be our only focus.
“We have to be tuned in, and some people say it’s one we don’t want to lose - forget that, we want to be on the offensive and we want to win it. We’ve had our rewards so far from taking that approach and we’ll continue to do that.
“It’s a game that matters because it’s our next one, and if we need any more incentive then we’ve got a problem. The incentive is it’s a local derby, and it’s the next game that we want to win.
“Unfortunately everybody’s got a better goal difference than us as it stands at the moment. The only thing we can do is make sure we have more points than the two teams at the bottom of the league, it’s as simple as that.
“Chances are that over these ten games we’re not going to reverse the state of our goal difference, but we can make it better. That’s why we have to get as many points on the board as we can, as soon as we can, and then we can have a real strong finish.”
With the full away allocation of tickets sold, and Holker Street a very tight ground, there’ll certainly be plenty of atmosphere for both sets of players to contend with.
“I don’t think you need to prepare any differently because of the atmosphere,” the gaffer told us. “I haven’t even mentioned it to the players yet. We’ll probably address it on Saturday, but I don’t think there’s any need to overhype it.
“I remember years ago having a good conversation with Sir Dave Brailsford, who was a Derby County fan, and I was talking to him about what I should say to the players, and he asked me if I always talked about different things in different situations.
“When I told him I didn’t, he said, well why do it now. We won’t change it, we’ll just keep doing the same things, keep doing it our way, and hope that’s going to be right to get the best out of our lads.
“Everybody says form goes out the window in a derby but I don’t think it does. I think if you’re playing well it doesn’t matter if it’s a derby or anything else. It’s about how we go about the game, end of story.
“It doesn’t matter about the fact we’re both at the bottom of the table or anything else, it’s about who deals with the game the best. We’ve got to make sure we do everything we possibly can to go and deal with the whole day in the best way we can.”
Mark Cooper’s side, of course, notched an important away win at Scunthorpe on Tuesday night bringing them into the fixture with renewed confidence.
“I watched their game back on Wednesday and Scunthorpe went down to ten men after about 22 minutes,” he commented. “Barrow look a good footballing side, they look as though they want to play.
“They have a couple of good players in there who you can see are talented. It really is about us, we’ve got to be right, and we will be.
“We know we’re going to a tight ground that has a surface that could be a bit bobbly, so it won’t be pretty. As with any derby game, it’s about rolling your sleeves up, earning the right to play and do your side of the game, and working hard.
“If we start properly and do all of that we know we’ll get the backing from a large number of our fans, and hopefully we can give ourselves a real good foothold.
“This is important because as it stands at the moment we haven’t got enough points on the board to secure our league status. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t get it, that’s not me sitting on the fence, it’s the truth, after Saturday we’ll have nine left.
“If we win it still won’t secure our status, and if we lose it won’t doom us. We have to keep a level head, understand what the game’s about, and with a lot of fans going we want to give them something to shout about.”
And speaking more about what is expected on the pitch on the day, he said: “Mark will want his team to be wired into us because that’s how he is.
“He has a fantastic record as a manager, he’s done well, thankfully it isn’t me and him playing against each other. It’s about the lads getting themselves right and doing it for us.
“We have to make sure that out of our group of 11 starters, and those who come on, seven or eight of them win their individual battles. If we do that then we’ll have a chance of winning the game.
“The fact the ground’s a really tight ground, it’s a bit of an old-school ground, it’s a local derby, they’ll get wired into us, I’m quite sure about that, and we’ve got to be prepared to match it.
“I’m looking forward to it. The last time I went there was for a pre-season friendly; I was only thinking the other day it’s the pre-season friendly where I made the decision to sign Keiren Westwood, so I haven’t been back since.
“I wouldn’t think it’s changed massively, but I’m looking forward to it. It should be a really good day for us, but only if we go and do it properly.
“There will be a few of our lads who haven’t been to Barrow’s stadium so they won’t know what to expect, but they’ll learn very quickly. They’ll realise during the warm-up what it’s like and get used to the surface.
“I want us to be aggressive but it’s got to be controlled aggression. We have to finish the game with 11 players. We can’t allow the emotions to run away with it. If we can keep our emotions in check and work and are committed, I think we’ve got enough ability to cause Barrow some problems.
“I also think they’ve got some individuals that can cause us problems. Like every game, we have to defend well, attack well, have security behind the ball when we’re attacking, and also be prepared to be on the front foot when we’re defending, and let the quality come through.”
“Barrow are an experienced side, with a couple of players who were at Carlisle. That’ll add a bit of extra spice for them.
“It’s who can start well, who can get their noses in front, then be prepared to work and see it through, and battle and scrap, and do the ugly side of it. I’ll take a scrappy ugly game just to get a result.”
“I know it’s a cliché but it’s a massive game because it’s the next one, that’s the first thing I’d say,” he concluded. “It’s massive because if we get the result right then we can create an even bigger gap between ourselves and the bottom of the table.
“That’s the only thing we’ve got to concern ourselves with. On Saturday, we can’t affect the results of Oldham, Scunthorpe, Orient or Stevenage, but we can certainly affect ours and Barrow’s and that’s what we have to do.”
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