Carlisle United manager John Sheridan says his side’s chances of a promotion challenge will be at risk if they don’t sharpen up their act.

The Blues boss, whose side return to league action at Swindon tomorrow, insists his team are capable of being in the race for honours this season.

But Sheridan says they will only go the distance if they sort out the flaws he criticised after their Checkatrade Trophy exit in midweek.

The manager levelled some strong words at his players, claiming they were not clinical enough and that some were too quick to “sulk” when he gave them his verdict.

He said he only spoke out in such a manner because he believes in his team’s ability.

“I think we can get out of this league - that’s why I’m going on as much as I am,” Sheridan said. “There is nothing stopping us getting out of this division.

“I’m not having a go, I’m demanding – we can get out of this league if we want to get out of this league. But we won’t get out of it if we keep making errors and giving the ball away cheaply as we did again [on Tuesday]. You will get punished if you keep doing it.

“I’m doing this for a reason, saying things like this for a reason, because I think we can get out of the league.”

Sheridan also called on players to “grow up”, lamenting that in the modern era a manager had to be more careful in how he spoke to players.

“You’ve got to put an arm around them all the time, and hug them, and kiss them,” he added.

“We’re all men, aren’t we? We want to win, I want to win, they should want to win as much.”

The manager added of his lengthy comments: “They don’t have to listen to me. It’s what I see and how I want to do it. Whether I’m right or wrong I don’t know – it’s just the way I work, and how I want the people around me working.

“You try and put it into players. I think the ones who take it on board and do it will go on and play higher.”

Sheridan’s injury concerns for tomorrow’s game include midfielder George Glendon, who limped out of Tuesday’s clash with a knee injury, while he said Tom Parkes and Kelvin Etuhu were “not far off” a return.

Hallam Hope’s availability for the 11th-placed Blues has still to be confirmed despite Barbados facing the US Virgin Islands on Sunday. Sheridan said that, in light of Hope’s recent return from injury: “We’ll have to talk and see what’s the best situation for both parties.”

Tomorrow’s game will be 17th-placed Swindon’s first under new manager Richie Wellens, who worked under Sheridan at Oldham.

Carlisle are currently five points outside the play-off places.