John Sheridan has warned his Carlisle United players they better be up for the task of visiting League Two leaders MK Dons - and that he isn’t afraid of playing his young players if his senior players aren’t.

United will return to League Two action at Stadium MK this Saturday, looking to bounce back after their 2-0 FA Cup second-round loss at Lincoln and bridge the four-point gap between themselves and seventh-placed Exeter.

Former Republic of Ireland international Sheridan says this was exactly the sort of game that he relished playing in during his career.

Asked if his Blues’ players would be up for the match, United’s boss said: “They better had be.

"If I see players in a downer and don’t think they want to be playing, I won’t even involve them. I’ll play all the kids.

"If I’m a player, I want to be playing in these games. I thought this was a good game [at Lincoln], because you’ve got to come and stand up and be ready for it.

"MK Dons are top of the league, and we’ve got Colchester after that; we’ve got some tough games.

"I don’t think we played that badly at Lincoln. But we nearly, nearly did this, nearly did that, and you can’t keep doing it. I keep saying it. It’s getting boring.”

In last Saturday’s FA Cup defeat, the Blues gave a good account of themselves but went down to goals from Matt Rhead and substitute John Akinde, with United lacking a clinical edge with Fleetwood loanee Ashley Nadesan, one of four players whose loans are up soon, not in the squad.

“We’ve had some really good opportunities. I’m sure they’re not missing on purpose but we’ve got to be more clinical,” Blues boss Sheridan said.

“The chances we created throughout the season…the only game [we’ve taken them] is probably Swindon. We’ve got to be more clinical when we get those opportunities.”

With the January transfer window now four weeks away, Sheridan believes he knows what kind of players he wants to add to his thin United squad - but admits whether he can afford them is another matter.

He said: “Deep down, I know. I know what kind of players I want, or what personalities I want.

“But whether I can get that is difficult.

“Whether funds are there, we just wait and see, and we’ll work hard [in the meantime].

“I’ll have a word with the lads who are already here on loan, and I’ll try and do what’s best for us.

“We’ve got another four weeks yet [until January] but I think it’s important I try and sort things out, make sure who wants to stay and who I want to stay, because we need to be strong with all the games coming up.

“In the meantime, I’ve just got to get on with trying to build them and trying to get back to winning ways in the league.”

The Dons, managed by former Exeter boss Paul Tisdale, are 13 points better off than the Cumbrians, having claimed 40 points from 20 league fixtures.

They had a free weekend last weekend after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Grimsby Town in the first round, but claimed a 2-0 home win over Morecambe last time out.

United yesterday agreed a new sponsorship deal with The Cumberland.