A run of six wins from seven games has transformed the outlook of United’s season with the Blues now within touching distance of mathematical safety with eight games still left to play.
The latest in the impressive tally of results for League Two’s form side was a home win over Bristol Rovers, with manager Paul Simpson pleased with the manner of the victory following what had been a battling display.
“I thought we played some really good football and I totally accept that we didn’t do that as much as they did,” he said. “I thought they dominated long periods with the ball and that’s because they’ve got good individual players.
“Those periods where we got it down and we played it took us into some really good areas, and I think about the chances in the first half. There was Brennan and his header at the back post when he got good contact on a great delivery.
“The one where the keeper saved it and Gibbo had a chance, the ball Joe Riley fizzed across and then Gibbo had a couple that he put wide or over the bar. I also accept they had some decent openings, so it was such a relief to see that one go past the far post in the 99th minute, or whatever it was.
“The players earned the right to win, we defended for our lives, and it was a very good victory. I just want them to start believing in themselves and in how good they can be.
“Through the first six games they’ve shown everybody that they’re a good team, so all they need to do is keep showing it. We got it in patches from them, and they look really good when they do it.”
And the shut-out was his third clean sheet from those seven games, with every player on the pitch having played their part in keeping things tight.
“I don’t think I need to learn any more about the character these players have because we’ve defended really well in all the games since I came,” he commented. “They’ve put their heads on blocks, they’ve done the right stuff, and they’ve earned the right to be on the pitch.
“Square pegs in round holes - I only really look at Corey at being someone who is slightly out of position, but the way I wanted him to play was more as a defensive midfielder. I thought he did that really well.
“He was absolutely shattered, we had him getting cramp, we had Jon Mellish the same, as was Jack Armer, so maybe I need to have a look at the intensity we worked at this week and ease back on them a little bit.
“If you can’t go out and play 90 or 95 minutes of hard work, there’s something not right. What a lovely day it was for football and credit to Dave Mitchell because he’s got the pitch looking great, and it has a zip to it.
“Overall we played well, but I want eight more of those. I want us to be as high up the table as we can be so that we can all enjoy a good end to the season.
“Like I say, they have some really good players. Elliot Anderson was a handful in the first half but I thought Joe got on top of it in the second half. Sometimes you just have to hang in there in a game, and he did that. He was committed and it’s the first time he’s had cramp in any game.
“That shows it was a tough one, and it shows we had to do a hell of a lot of work to get on top. I get all the running stats after each game, but I won’t need any from this one to tell me those players worked hard. I could see that just by watching.
“I’m delighted with what all of them are doing because it sends us home happy. That’s what we want for our fans. Bristol had really good support, it’s not an easy journey for them up to here, so credit to them for that.
“Our supporters were brilliant for us, superb from the first day I came in. They’ve been positive from what was a difficult situation, and they’ve just got better and better.
“There might not be any nervousness from them but there is from me. It’s good, isn’t it, and it’s what supporters want. This is what managers want as well, as do players.
“We all want to be involved in teams that are winning and sometimes it isn’t just about playing good football, it’s about rolling your sleeves up and earning the right. Bristol will be disappointed that they didn’t get something, but we’ve taken our chance and we’ve had others that we missed.
In the end it's a brilliant result for us, we managed the game well, maybe a little bit scrappy towards the end with the silly free kicks we gave away. We got involved in stuff we didn’t need to, but overall we deserved it and I’m delighted for the team and the fans.”
Seeing so many players out on their feet come the final whistle was an indication yet again of the effort and commitment, but the Carlisle gaffer spoke about the fact that it no longer comes as a surprise.
“It tells me they’ve got really good character and they want to fight for the shirt and for the football club,” he told us. “There are a lot of them who are fighting to get contracts, whether that’s here or somewhere else, just like I’m fighting for my career.
“We’re all doing everything we possibly can to make it right. It was a really tricky situation when I first arrived, but we’ve competed and we’ve given ourselves a wonderful chance to make it a positive finish to the season.
“I’ve heard that Oldham conceded late, which is about the third time they’ve done that, and it needs to be a monumental effort from them and Scunthorpe to catch us. What we need to make sure is that we pick up as many points as we can in these last eight games so that we aren’t looking over our shoulders.
“What I’ve asked from them as they do this work is still to look to be better when they’re on the ball. We did some of it, but I still think we can better. I’ve got to be honest, I thought Bristol were a really good football side, and in all fairness probably a better footballing team than we were on the day.”
“I thought this was going to be our toughest game, from what I’ve seen of Bristol Rovers,” he added. “I really did think it was. I said to the players, we have an opportunity to put a bit of a marker down here.
“We’re on a really good run of form, and people can say what they like, but this was an opportunity for us to say that we should be better than the league table suggests. I do believe footballing wise they were a level above us.
“But in terms of the way we’ve gone about it I thought we were outstanding. The way we defended, even the football we played, at times we matched them for their football. But there was also a lot of times they did play some good stuff.
“What a great advertisement for League Two football that was, two sides who wanted to go about it properly. It was a massive relief at the end when that whistle goes and we’ve got the three points.
“Again being honest, I think the things we weren’t doing well at the start were that we were a little bit frantic with our clearances, and we kept giving the ball back cheaply to them.
“We needed a bit of calmness about us. Sorry to use the expression but we needed to have a bit of balls about us to take control and play. We didn’t do that particularly well to start with.
“When we did have some balls and get it down and move it and switch play, I thought we got into some really good areas. An example was Brennan’s chance, then Gibbo’s chance at the far post, we had some good quality from set plays.
“Maybe a little bit unfortunate, we were a threat with the long throws, particularly in the first half, and people might say it’s ugly and it’s not football, I’m sorry but it is football, if you’ve got it why not use it as a weapon.
“We’ve had other teams use it as a weapon against us. It’s all part of the game and we have to use every single trick in the book that we can. I’ve talked in the past about the way we manage the game towards the end.
“We were a little bit desperate and didn’t manage it as well, we gave some cheap free-kicks away, probably got involved in a couple of things, yellow cards that were unnecessary, but there was a lot of really good stuff and I just think it was a bit more calmness about us that got us into the game and stopped them from dominating as much.”
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