Phil Parkinson rolled up his sleeves ready for City’s battle against basement boys Stevenage and urged his team: Don’t waste our advantage.
City have moved nine points clear of danger with successive home wins with the chance to ease further away by beating the bottom club tomorrow.
Parkinson saw Stevenage beat Crewe in midweek to grab themselves a lifeline – and expects his side to match the intensity that Graham Westley’s men will bring north.
Parkinson said: “The two wins have been a great boost for everybody. But we know this will be equally tough.
“I’ve seen Stevenage twice recently and there’s very little difference between the teams across the board in this division.
“I went down to watch them against Crewe and Stevenage’s desire won them the game.
“They changed the system two or three times which didn’t really impact it but there was an edge and determination about them because they are fighting at the bottom.
“They’ve worked hard to get into this division but so have we and we need to work hard to make sure we keep that gap as big as possible by tomorrow evening.
“We have to scrap and fight for those points. At this stage of the season pitches aren’t going to be great and there’s more bad weather coming, so desire and determination will be so important.”
Matthew Bates is back in training after a hip injury but Parkinson is unlikely to tinker with his back four after back-to-back shut-outs.
The lack of clean sheets this season has been a major frustration and the City chief is delighted that a corner appears to have been turned. For ever-present keeper Jon McLaughlin, in particular, the last two games have delivered a timely lift.
Parkinson added: “We had that period when some tremendous goals were scored against us. Jon had very little to do but then one moment cost us.
“We’ve worked on the defensive side of it and I’m pleased for the back four.
“I’m pleased for Jon as well because he has worked exceptionally hard. When you don’t get clean sheets, it can knock you slightly.
“You’ve got to be tough and resilient in football. When you start feeling sorry for yourself, someone else takes your place in the team.
“You can see with Jon his confidence has gone up a level. Goalkeepers are like goalscorers with their clean sheets.
“Come the end of the season, keepers look at how many clean sheets they’ve had. It is important but we’ve also got to show a determination that if we do concede, we don’t let another one in.
“It might be a fantastic strike in the top corner from 25 yards which nobody can do anything about. But when that happens you have to dust yourself down.
“It’s about showing that mental toughness from the last 18 months. Around Crewe and certainly Carlisle we lost our way a little bit when we got a setback in a game.
“But we’ve got to use our new-found resilience to make sure we do that tomorrow.”
Stevenage are coming off a win but they have lost the last five away games. A first-half lead could be significant – the Boro have lost all 16 times this season when they have trailed at the break.