“There is certainly more consistency and chemistry coming into the team,” Galway United manager John Caulfield says ahead of tomorrow’s crucial SSE Airtricity League first division encounter away to UCD (7.45pm ).
“The team has gelled a lot better. In the last couple of games we have looked much more solid which is good.”
Three wins on the spin has injected hope into Galway United, who edged out Treaty United at Markets Field on Friday. Substitute Padraic Cunningham’s gorgeous header immediately after the restart ensured Caulfield’s charges prevailed.
“We knew Treaty had the second best defensive record, they are really strong at corners, free kicks, and long throws,” Caulfield adds.
“Our defending was superb and Podge Cunningham got a fantastic header. It was always going to be a game without a lot of chances, thankfully we took ours to get three points.
“We now have three wins in a row with two clean sheets, when you are going away to UCD you will need to be on your best form to have any chance of getting a result.”
Last season Caulfield came close to steering United to an improbable promotion. What that blistering eight victories in 12 matches run perfectly illustrated was the importance of belief.
“You need momentum,” Caulfield responds. “Winning games can become a habit, the same as losing games. I think certainly in the first third of the season we had been inconsistent, maybe there were changes to the team and changes to personnel.
“It does take time when you have a new team for it to gel together. Even the fact we turned to full time training, it does take four or five months for guys to get used to training twice a day. It takes time to bed in, but I just feel since the break you can sense more confidence in the group. I think they all understand where we are at and what we need to do.
“I think our performances in the last number of weeks have shown that, we are only coming up to the halfway point in the league. There is a long way to go, we need a lot more consistency in our game, but the last three matches putting three wins together has helped. It does build confidence, there is no doubt about that.”
Conor McCormack, Gary Boylan, and David Hurley have all made significant contributions in recent weeks as a midfield trio. To underline United’s increasing options is the fact that the accomplished Shane Duggan has been used sparingly following injury.
“When we took over last year in the run-in during the second half of the season Shane Duggan was our best player, he was absolutely fantastic,” Caulfield says.
“Shane has struggled with a rib injury for about a month, he is just coming back to full fitness. We are talking about one of the best midfielders in the league, he isn't in the team at the moment which is a credit to the lads ahead of him.
“Likewise we have guys like Shane Doherty coming back from injuries, these guys will put more pressure on the lads, you need competition for places. That is all good. The three lads - McCormack, Boylan, and Hurley have really done well.
“We need players at their best and we need that competition for places, people pushing them. You need that all over the pitch, thankfully we have got a few back from injury that will put pressure on those playing.”
United’s improving form is noteworthy, but Caulfield is not getting carried away. Simply remaining focused on the next fixture is the approach being adopted.
“I keep saying that when you are in a marathon like a league race, where you play 27 games, people can start adding up points and looking up tables,” Caulfield remarks.
“Personally I never look at the table, the table will only matter when you come into the run in around October in the last round of fixtures. There is a long, long way to go. You have to take it game by game, if you don't or you lose your focus or look too far ahead that is when you drop points. That is what happens.
“People might say that is a boring comment, but as an experienced manager I have to drill that into the team - the next game is the most important game, it is the game that matters. It is where the next three points are on offer. If you keep that approach and focus then you have a chance of winning your games.
“As regards the league table it doesn't matter until you get into the run in because we are only at the halfway point. There is a long, long way to go. Yes, Shelbourne have blazed a trail, everyone thinks they are going to win the league, and they may well do so, but at the same time there is a lot of points still to be played for. All we can do is make sure we look after ourselves, keep ourselves in the play-off position.
“We go to UCD, another team that in the last few years has been in the play off positions, a top team, we will have to be at our best to beat them. If we play to our best we can do that, but if we don't we won't. This league is ruthless.”