John Coleman says it’s a pivotal time in Stanley’s season as they face two games against their promotion rivals in three days over the Christmas period.

The Reds face fifth placed Carlisle United on Boxing Day and then, on the 28th December, they travel to second placed Northampton Town.

Stanley are in sixth in League Two with two games in hand on every team above them.

“It is a pivotal point in our season and we have got to get as many points as we can from the next two games against teams who are so close to us in the league,” said Coleman.

“We are taking each game on its merit but, because they are so close, we are preparing for both of them.

“It’s not only a chance to take three points ourselves but also to stop the teams around us getting maximum points so it’s vital we do that.

“Both Carlisle and Northampton are in a rich vein of form and we have got to be firing on all cylinders. I don’t think we have done that in the last three games – York, Portsmouth and Stevenage – and hopefully that’s our little blip and it hasn’t done us too much damage and we have come out the other side.”

Coleman admitted with two games in quick succession, the players do have to be wrapped in cotton wool.

“It’s a fine balance and it’s a balance between fitness and freshness. We have had to meticulously prepare training this week and there will be training on Christmas Day.

“It won’t be a come in and get away as quickly as possible. It will be a full session – there are plenty of Christmases to enjoy when you stop playing and enjoy them with your family.

“At the moment the family of the players is the club and the fans and hopefully we can celebrate Christmas on Boxing Day.”