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7 December 2012

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After back-to-back wins over Dorchester Paul Buckle looks ahead to the clash with Alfreton.

After overcoming a resilient Dorchester side twice in a week to secure their place in two cup competitions the Hatters switch their focus to the importance of the league aim.

And Paul Buckle expressed his delight at his side’s approach to three games against the Magpies but insists they now have to carry that mannerism into the league.

"Credit to the players because we were really professional over the three games,” said Buckle at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

“It wasn't easy, they were tough encounters we used a lot of players over the tree games and I'm delighted that were through in both cups but now it’s on to the league and we have to get our focus back on that now.”

With eight changes made from Saturday's clash with the Magpies when the fixture was played out again in the FA Trophy, it highlighted the strength in depth the Hatters squad holds, a strength needed in this heavy period of the season but despite the clog up of fixtures, Buckle is delighted his side are still competitive on three fronts.

“It's really pleasing to still be in FA Cup, FA Trophy and still be up the right end of the league is excellent,” said Buckle.

“The worry is congestion of games and pile up of matches but there's been a real intensity about their play and how they're training and they're working very hard for each other.”

With many sceptics exposing the cup competitions as unwelcome distractions to the ultimate goal of promotion, Buckle explained why the cups should be seen as a maximum positive rather than a negative outlier.

“You never like to lose a game, even when we train we play to win,” Buckle said. “Whether it’s a small sided game or 11 v 11, everything we do on the training field is competitive because that's what we go into on a Saturday or a Tuesday. The players are tuned in to that way of thinking because you can't set a team out to go out half-hearted.

“The players’ fitness levels are good and we get the opportunity in January with the window to add if we need too but at the moment I'm happy to be in the two cups and at the right end of the table because it means we're doing something right.”

After an emphatic 3-1 FA Trophy triumph over Dorchester on Tuesday, Buckle expressed his delight at those players brought in that made such a good impression. Alfreton is the start of a busy period of football for the Hatters and with the luxury of the squad players stepping up to the mark it gives the  manager a welcome headache.

“They didn't surprise me at all in the way the performed,” said Buckle. “The biggest thing for me was the belief and I really feel that has added to the belief knowing their a big part of the squad because you only have to lose one or two and people get their chance. I knew the players were ready on Tuesday night so I could make that change, It was great to see, really refreshing.

“I've received great feedback about it from the supporters. They were enthused to see what we had backing up the first team and it was really encouraging and the whole place is going in the right direction at the moment.”

The last time these two sides met ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory for Saturday's visitors, but Buckle expects a completely different match from that fixture back in September and assures his side are in a ruthless mood.

“We were poor on the day up there but a lot has happened since then,” said Buckle determinedly.

“We've recovered really well since then, we've marched on in the league, we've marched on in the cups and the boys are on a good unbeaten run at the moment. That was a long, long time ago and it's a totally different game now where they come to our place and find us in a determined mood.

“The players are not in the mood at the moment to give up anything they have built and it's been built on work rate and desire and in these games in the winter months where they get a bit nasty I feel we really have upped our game.

“We're looking forward to it, we know it's going to be a tough game because they’re a good side but then again that's nothing new.”

Buckle continued his determined stance on the fixture into the next question as he was asked about their tactical approach to the fixture.  Many teams have deployed a defensive approach to their visit but however the opposition set out Buckle is completely focused on his own side's preparation.

“To be honest I'm not fussed,” Buckle replied. “I'm really not fussed about what they do, I'm so energised by what I'm seeing on the training field and what I saw the other night I'm totally focused on my squad. If they keep this work rate up and this desire and effort we will certainly be going in the right direction so that's where my focus is.”

Another encouraging sign for the Hatters boss is that due to the disruption caused by the weather issues his side have not lost too much ground up on the side's ahead. Heading into the game with Alfreton, Buckle knows that if the Hatters win their potential two games in hand they could again be one of the teams leading the division which adding to the purple patch of form they are currently experiencing can do nothing but boost morale within the squad.

“That is a plus that a few teams have slipped up. It’s a very open league and it continues to be open,” Buckle said. “I don't think we've ever seen a league like this before. I did say a few weeks ago that it will be January, February where it pans out and as long as we're in there over the Christmas period and we're putting in good performances and picking up points I’ll be happy. I feel we're capable of going on a run, we're on one already and we want to continue it.

“It will be continued and if we keep our energy levels high and start the game well, like we did the other night, because it is our job to come out and we know at home this season we've probably not been at our best, but by and large if you swapped it around and looked at our away form, performances and the points tally we've totalled up, we're somewhere near where we want to be.”

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