Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay at the Peninsula Stadium gave Carlisle boss Paul Simpson the opportunity to watch this weekend’s opponents first-hand, with the home side’s domination of possession ultimately not reflected in the final score.
“I went and watched their game, it was an absolutely freezing cold night, it has to be said, and they’re a funny side because they’re a really good footballing team,” he said. “They’ve assembled a good group of players who are technically very good.
“They’re in a bit of a rough patch, particularly when it comes to scoring goals, and they’re getting punished at the other end.
“They’re a good side and they have a manager in Neil [Wood] who has built up great experience with Manchester United, so we know they won’t make it easy for us.
“We’ll need to be at it, but it’s one where I believe that if we get on the front foot immediately, and stay there, we’ve got more than enough to cause them problems.
“We have to try to get at them and look to take advantage of the fact that they’ve been on a poor run. They dominated possession against Peterborough, it was something like 59% in their favour, but they lost 3-0.
“They’ve got to get back to turning that possession into results. We have to try to exploit the fact that they are struggling a bit at home, but we can’t be disrespectful about it.
“They’ll turn us over if we are. Some of the individuals in there can win games on their own, and when you look at the bench, they’ve got players on there who we couldn’t bring here, based on finances alone. It’s as simple as that.
“This is a great game for us, a good challenge, but we also have to see it as an opportunity, as we should every time we go out to play. We’re up against one of the teams who are fancied to do well, rightly so, and I’m just really thankful that the ownership group aren’t registered to play!”
With Neil Wood in charge, it’s a very tactical and technical approach from a side that likes to have the ball.
“I think they way that they play is more like a game of chess, but ours won’t be,” he explained. “Our job is to go and mess up their chess board as much as we possibly can.
“I want us to go and be competitive, stop them playing, don’t want to allow them to settle into the game and get passes and passes and dominate the ball.
“I don’t care if they get a lot of possession as long as we go and exploit any weaknesses they have and we win the game. If they have the ball in areas that aren’t going to trouble us, I won’t lose any sleep over that.
“When it gets into the right areas we’ve got to go and get all over them and make sure we don’t let them get a foothold in the game.
“Coming up against teams who are in a bit of blip, you have to start front footed. You’ve got to go and get right into them and make it as really difficult as you possibly can.
“I just don’t believe that we’re good enough, and I haven’t worked with any team that’s good enough, to sit back and defend for 90 minutes like the Italian teams used to. Our mentality has to be to take the game to the opposition.
“If we can do that we can certainly cause Salford problems. If we sit off, they are such a strong possession-based side that they will give us some issues. We have to get in their faces, make it difficult, make it ugly if we have to, and give them as many problems as we possibly can.”
In a division that tends to put the team that scores first in the driving seat, he told us: “I think that’s why you have to get a good start, go and get that first goal and not give them the lift.
“They’ve got goals in their team with people like Dackers, Smith, Callum Hendry. You’ve got Elliot Watt who’s got great set play delivery. There’s goals in the team.
“Galbraith can get goals and they’ve got lads on the bench who we couldn’t have in this football club purely on finances alone. They’ve got players who can be a real threat.
“We have to nullify that threat as much as we can, make sure all of our players get into goalscoring positions and go and be ruthless and finish them off.”