City’s promotion dreams will live or die on their home form.

Stuart McCall’s side enter 2009 in third place – the last automatic spot in League Two – and the key to staying there 23 games will be how they perform against their rivals at Valley Parade.

After years of indifferent results in front of their own fans, City have only suffered one home league loss in 12 so far. In total, they won 12 home games in 2008 compared with just five in the previous 12 months.

It is a healthy improvement but there is still room for more. Before Sunday’s much-needed 4-0 triumph over Morecambe, City had won only two of the previous eight Valley Parade outings with five draws.

McCall said: “We could have won more but you look at the majority of people at the top. Except for Shrewsbury and possibly Wycombe, most have won five or six.

“We’ve dropped points against sides in the lower reaches. Obviously Luton and Bournemouth are down there because they started on minus points but you look back at Barnet and Chester.

“But we have beaten the teams up there like Bury and Rochdale and had a great comeback from two down against Chesterfield.

“It’s a fact that teams love coming to play at Valley Parade because it’s a great arena and good crowd. That’s not an excuse and you definitely see a spring in the step of visiting teams.

“I see sides come to us and try to play. Then I watch them again on another day in a different game and they haven’t got the same enthusiasm.

“That’s life and we get on with it. Teams raise their game when they come here and it’s down to us to counteract that and get on top of them.”

The top half of the division remains as concertinaed as ever, with little to choose between second and tenth. But ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering clash with Shrewsbury, City are firmly in the hunt.

For McCall, the new year holds only one objective as he explained: “We’ve got to get up any way possible, even if it means finishing seventh and winning at Wembley.

“I’m pleased with the way things have gone on and off the park but it doesn’t matter where we are at the minute – the bottom line is that we’ve got to get out of this league this season.

“I keep mentioning the word consistency, as most managers do. We’ve got a good enough squad here but we have to be consistent.

“You also need a little bit more fortune with injuries, which we’ve not had in the first half of the season. If we got the injured players back and keep some of the loanees, then we’ll have a strong squad to pick from.

“That will make it difficult for me, because we’ve got a lot of good players and we’ll have to leave some out, but the stronger the squad the better.

“We know what our aim is and it’s something we’re really determined to do. With hard work and a bit of luck, then hopefully we can achieve it.”