United head to Swindon on Saturday with both teams enjoying a good run of form – the Blues with three consecutive victories under their belts and the Robins with three games unbeaten against some very good teams.
“It’s a really tough place to go,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I remember my days at Oxford, that was our derby game, and it was always a really hostile atmosphere.
“I think they’re one of the best footballing sides in the division, if I’m going to be honest with you, and they have a manager [Jody Morris] who has gone in who has great experience as a player and also in his roles as an assistant with Frank Lampard.
“He will have them trying to play football and he’ll want them to do it the right way. The truth is we’ve just got to go and do what we need to do. We’ve been to places where teams try to play football, we’ve been where it’s more direct and physical, but whatever this weekend brings in terms of what Swindon do, all we can do is make sure we’re right. This is a really good opportunity for us to really cement our place in those top places.”
“With their games in hand they’ve got a chance of being involved and they’ll look at this game as being one that can give them valuable points,” he added. “They’re at home, so this will be a challenge for us.
“I know they’ve had some injury troubles, but, listen, it sounds like groundhog day, but it’s about us and what we do. We’re second in the table for a reason and if we go and do it properly, as we have done over the last three games, then we can make it four wins on the bounce.
“They’ve had some really good results recently against really good teams. To get a draw at the league leaders, to beat Salford, and they had an emphatic win against Harrogate. That’s not bad.
“They’re going to be a tough side to play against, but I also think they’ll be looking at us and thinking it’ll be a tough game for them. We’ve got to go there, not with an arrogance, but with a belief and a swagger of a team that’s second in the table. We need a performance that makes it a difficult afternoon for them.”
And the Cumbrians have shown already that they know what’s needed to make it four on the bounce.
“It’s down to that belief, and I’ve got to say that their approach to training this week has been excellent,” he confirmed. “We’ve had weeks where we get a good result or a couple of good results and they come off it a little bit.
“They haven’t been like that this week, they’ve been right, they’ve gone about their business properly.
“We had a really good session up at Gretna today [Thursday] because our training pitch is frozen, and they worked really hard. We need to make sure that Friday is another good one and that we get the journey right, and then we need a full high-energy strong positive performance come Saturday.
“The players seem to be handling the situation well, and all I can say is that they did it right against Grimsby, but you’re judged after every game.
“We will all get judged on Saturday afternoon again and we just have to keep going. We’ve got it right for 34 games, so let’s keep doing what we need to. My hope and wish is that they carry it on and keep showing it.
“They’re good people, they’re good characters, they want the right things and they’re saying the right things every day in training, so now we have to go and get it right in the next game. Once that one is put to bed, we chalk it off the fixture list and get ready for the next one.
“I’ve said it before, but we just have to enjoy it. I think that’s what I’m probably feeling from the players this week, that they are enjoying it. I know they enjoyed the dressing room at the end of the game last weekend, even though I did what I do and put a dampener on it by reminding them of the things they need to do better.
“They’ve enjoyed their week and they know what the plan is for next week as well. We go and do it right on Saturday, then we can start to get prepared for the week after.”
“At the moment they’re producing for us and they’re doing things with a whatever it takes attitude,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s scrappy and gritty and professional like it was in the second half last week, and the 15 minutes before half time was good football and energy.
“We played and switched play, we got crosses in and we caused problems. They’re learning and developing and the experienced players are doing their bit, and long may that continue.
“It’s now a really tough run of games. You have to play these teams who are up at the top and beat them if you want to be up there. If we’re going to achieve anything this season we’re going to have to beat all the teams at the top of the table, and that’s who we’re coming up against.
“Orient, Stevenage, Northampton, Barrow, Stockport, Salford – these are all good games. If we are good enough then we’ll be fine. If we’re not, we take it on the chin and we have to deal with that.”
Backing the Blues will be somewhere near 500 fans, with 420 tickets purchased at time of going to press.
“It’s incredible because it’s another long journey in poor weather conditions,” he said. “Fair play to them, they’re brilliant, and I know they’ll back us, I have no doubts about that.
“We’ve to make sure we put on a performance that keeps them happy and makes their journey home a good one.
“We then have a home game where we’re asking them to come and make it a really difficult place for teams to come. Let’s not get involved with what Stevenage want to do, and what their dugout want to do, support us, come and support the players and make some noise.
“Make it a really good place for us to play and a horrible one for the away team.”