THE next two games will be the biggest challenge Exeter City have faced this season, according to manager Paul Tisdale.
City travel to play fourth-placed Bradford City on Saturday and then to top-of-the-table Gillingham on Tuesday in a run of games that, if it goes well, could see the Grecians go back into the play-off places.
It will not be easy for Paul Tisdale's men though, as Bradford and Gillingham currently hold the joint-best defensive home records in the league, having fallen to just one defeat each on their own turf.
The Grecians will also have to travel 1,074 miles in four days on top of what has already been a hectic November schedule.
"I think most people will agree that it is our biggest challenge yet (this season)," said Tisdale. "Just the fact that it is two away games against those two sides makes it difficult, but then the travel, especially Tuesday to Gillingham, will be very, very tough indeed.
"Phil Parkinson (Bradford City's manager) has been there long enough to have made his stamp on the team. You can see that they are going to be a strong effective team, their results suggest that. They have played teams from higher divisions in the (Carling) cup and beaten them and they are beginning to creep up the league. I imagine they will be a contender for promotion and they will still have experience from promotion-winning teams before. I will be surprised if they are not there at the end of the season."
However, Tisdale is keen to see his side continue the momentum they picked up last week with the victory against AFC Wimbledon and the draw against Fleetwood Town.
"If we can get four points from the next two games, I'll be delighted," he said. "I would like to pick up points on a regular basis. We had a satisfactory week last week and I think we need to look at these games and try to get a similar return.
"I'm always optimistic going into forthcoming games, it is my nature. I'm always hoping we can win the games."
Tisdale added that the optimism has also been lifted in the dressing room by the recent performances and results, which will stand them in good stead for Saturday and Tuesday.
He said: "It can't harm. Everybody needs belief and confidence. It was dwindling, because we had a poor run of results, but I think we will look back on that month (October) and say there weren't too many things wrong, other than the fact that we didn't get the results.
"Sometimes you just have to keep the belief in what you are doing as a team and not dig too deep.
"Sometimes you can destabilise the team by trying to change too many things and change players. We just had a bad month.
"We missed the likes of Alan Gow, through injury. That was a big loss for us. Liam Sercombe and Scot Bennett missed games as well. Every team will have to cope with injuries and things not being perfect.
"We went through a period, where I actually thought we played quite well, but we didn't get the results. I'm not sure there was too much wrong though and hopefully (the last couple of results) are going to give us a bit of a lift now."