Steven Pressley has challenged his new-look Carlisle United side to “lay down a couple of markers” as they begin a string of games against promotion rivals.

Tomorrow’s visit of Exeter sees a host of new signings in the squad as the Blues aim for a ninth win in 10 games.

After the clash with the Grecians, who are also in the top seven, they have their rearranged trip to play-off chasing Crewe next Tuesday before encounters with MK Dons and Colchester.

Pressley insists he is only focusing on the Exeter clash and said: “It’s a good challenge for us as a team and one we should look forward to. We can certainly lay down a couple of markers this weekend.”

Fifth-placed United are one point and two places ahead of tomorrow’s visitors and Pressley admits it will be a proper examination of their promotion potential.

“This is a real test for us,” he said. “This will give us a feeling. With all due respect to Port Vale and Cheltenham [United’s previous two opponents], they’re teams that are at the bottom end of the table just now.

“This is against a team that’s in form and wants to gain promotion. We have to be ready, make no mistake. If we’re not, we’ll lose the game. If we do the things we’re particularly good at, we can cause them a lot of problems.”

Pressley is likely to include last week’s new signings Callum O’Hare, Nathan Thomas, Peter Grant and Stefan Scougall in his squad, with Mark Cullen also close to returning from injury and defender Gary Liddle hoping to be available after a knee problem.

United’s boss said the new faces have all gelled well in their first full week but the real test will come at 3pm. “They’ve integrated well into the squad. But they’ll be judged by their time on the pitch, their performances,” Pressley said.

“We’ve all experienced very good training players in our time. It is a really important factor, and I want my players to train exactly how they play. But they must take those training performances into games. The proof will be in the pudding.”

While Carlisle are targeting an 8,000 crowd for next Saturday’s MK Dons game, the club are also hoping for an improved attendance tomorrow.

Pressley said any increase in numbers in the stands must be met by a positive response from his team.

“Absolutely, that’s our responsibility, that’s our job, to entertain the supporters, to work in a way they see is passionate, where they trust the team, and if we do that I’m sure they’ll come back in their droves, which is really important for the team and the club,” he said.

“This is a club craving success, a club with real potential, that’s got a fanbase that are desperate to get behind the team. We’ve given them something to hold onto and we’ve got to make sure we keep moving that forward.

“If we get a good crowd this weekend, we’ve got a responsibility to ensure they want to come back and don’t go away disappointed. To fulfil the potential we have a responsibility and we have to ensure we are serious about that responsibility.”

United are also aiming for a sixth straight home win tomorrow.

Pressley added: “We have to be proud of this stadium, be proud of our home record. We have to ensure that continues to improve, because we want teams to fear coming here.

“That’s a big part of your success as a club, that you create an environment where people don’t enjoy coming to your stadium. That has to be a goal of ours. We managed to win against Cheltenham and we must do the same against Exeter, and start building that momentum at home, saying to teams that when you come to Carlisle it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience.”

Exeter’s squad will include Carlisle-born former United striker Ryan Bowman while Matt Taylor’s assistant manager is the former Blues youth boss Eric Kinder.

United striker Hallam Hope missed out on the Sky Bet League Two player of the month award to Bury midfielder Jay O'Shea. The Shakers' boss Ryan Lowe won the manager of the month prize.