It took boss Steven Pressley less than a minute of the pre-match press conference ahead of the Swindon match to describe Carlisle United’s remaining fixtures as “11 cup finals”.

Perhaps that helps to show how crucial the next week will be in the Blues’ season.

United will play the first three of those 11 fixtures in the next seven days - playing host to the in-form Robins today, then Notts County on Tuesday, before a trip to Forest Green.

As they return to action at home for the first time since more than 10,000 fans flocked to Brunton Park for their match against MK Dons, the Cumbrians will be hoping to claim an overdue win.

Having taken only two points from the last 15 points available, Pressley’s team have slipped out of the play-off places after their latest loss, a 2-0 defeat at Newport County last Saturday. But they will welcome back Jamie Devitt after a three-match ban.

"I’m pretty certain that, at the start of the season if you had said to many of our supporters and people connected with the club we’d be in this position at the start of March, many of them would have settled for that,” Pressley admits.

"But the recent form hasn’t been good enough. The last three or four games, we have not picked up enough points, and we have found ourselves slipping from being in the play-offs to being out of them, and we are desperate now to get back in amongst it.

“We have 11 games, but we aren’t going to lose sight that we still have a great opportunity to achieve our goals this year. To do that, it’s vital we get back to winning ways very quickly.”

The recent downturn in results has come with Carlisle’s January recruits looking to find their feet. Pressley concedes the change in personnel in the squad means the Cumbrians may need to look to find a different way to score goals.

"I think that the one thing I have noticed about us in recent weeks is we probably don’t quite have the ability to counter-attack with the same speed that we had with the likes of [Ashley] Nadesan and those types of players," he says.

"Now, we have brought in Nathan Thomas who we hoped would be a perfect replacement. It has taken him time to settle so, because of that, we probably have to find a different way to score goals.

“That way will be through more intricate play from our players that can open the opposition up with their skills and their ability, so we have to find a different way to deliver in our build-up and, secondly, to deliver the all-important goals. That is something we have worked on and, hopefully, that will show in our performance because we always have to evolve and find a way.

“Ideally, we wanted to play in a similar way to the way we did in the period before me coming in, which was very much a transitional game, but maybe we don’t quite have the players. [Mark] Cullen is maybe not that type of player, as well. He is a very good striker but he is not a striker that is blessed with blistering speed.

“So, we have to find different ways to score goals and that’s something we have to work for. We have to continue to evolve and try to get better at. Hopefully, we can do that.”

Asked how difficult that change of tactics would be to install during the season, Pressley adds: “I think, as a manager, you always have got to look at the strengths of your playing squad.

"I’ve said numerous times, we all have certain ways we would like to play – we all have this dream way of playing – but you have to manage in relation to your players’ strengths and weaknesses.

“When I came in, I felt the transitional game was the game we played well, but we need to find a different way without the speed up top. So, we have to build the game differently and find a way of getting our good players – the players who can make a difference – in possession in the final third.”

But the former Scotland defender, who has called on his senior players to step up their performances, denied confidence was low at Carlisle.

He says: “I don’t think so, no. Listen, momentum is a big thing in football, there is no doubt about it - winning games breeds confidence [and that] breeds momentum. That is a certain.

“But I don’t sense that we have lost confidence. I sense a quiet determination about us, it’s been a good week - we’ve had a couple of positives meetings about how we move forward - and when you have them, it means I have no fears.

"This is the time for our senior players to really show the way. I want to be part of a team that gets promoted. I came here, and that was my goal. That will not change. 

“We are one point off the play-offs but we haven’t picked up enough points in our last few games, that has to change.”

At the County Ground - Swindon’s home stadium which the club this week agreed to buy from Swindon Borough Council alongside the club’s supporters - Carlisle claimed a 4-0 victory back in November. That match saw Richie Wellens’ tenure as Swindon manager get off the worst possible start, but the Robins have now found form and are only three points and one place behind United.

“They are on a rich vein of form in this moment in time. They will be coming here in a confident mood,” Pressley predicts.

“But although we have had a couple of wobbles of late, we are in a great position, and we can’t lose sight of that.

"The most important thing is to get back to winning ways this weekend.”

Meanwhile, on the injury front, midfielder Arthur Gnahoua remains sidelined, 18-year-old winger Liam McCarron is set for a scan after picking up a knee injury in the 3-0 reserve friendly defeat at Middlesbrough, while Pressley says defender Macaulay Gillesphey is making good progress along his road to recovery from a cartilage injury.

“The one aspect is we have had to monitor the loads and make sure we aren’t giving the players too much, but we have to keep pushing them on all aspects – whether it’s their fitness, their technical ability or their tactical ability,” he says.

“We are trying to push all these things but we are aware that we can’t push too hard. It’s finding that balance.

"Hopefully, just now, we have found a decent balance because we, in general, have no new, long-term, injuries.”