Two awkward away games back-to-back against sides who are within a win of the play-offs? Just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps.
Obviously, there’s a danger that things won’t turn out well against two sides in better form than us. However, if you ask Dean Keates, he might suggest this is just the challenge we need.
Obviously, it would be nice if Keates could have a clear week to work with his team, but he won’t get that luxury until we’re preparing for the Rochdale match. Still, the win over Chesterfield gave us something to work with, and a shape to develop.
Hopefully Shaun Pearson will be fit to return, and he’ll be able to slot into a defence which has started to gain a little more confidence. A midweek clean sheet built on the improvement we’ve seen at the back since Keates’ return. It’s no huge surprise that he’d make us more solid, and this week is a chance to take a leap forward.
Our midweek clean sheet relied on a mixture of good fortune and smart management. The fortune came in the return of fitness of Rob Lainton almost at the moment Keates took over. Lainton made some superb saves, although as Denis Smith often pointed out after one of his keepers had done well, that is his job.
The good management came in the form of James Horsfield. Keates has wasted no time improving his back four, and Horsfield has looked too good for the National League in both games so far. Putting a defensive midfielder in front of the back four and upgrading at right back have made an instant difference. Neither Keates nor Lainton have seen their side concede more than one goal in a game this season.
Never mind our early season hopes of an attacking renaissance: the way the campaign has developed, a couple of drab goalless draws would be a fantastic outcome. I’m not so bothered about what happens up the other end of the pitch, although if we can get 70-odd minutes out of JJ Hooper in both games we ought to have a threat on the counter, but if we can get back to our old ways of keeping the opposition at arm’s length, I’ll be more than happy.