DESPITE adverse weather intensifying fixture backlog woes brought on by cup games, Jamie Manley believes the enforced break has galvanised his Sherborne Town squad.
The Raleigh Grove outfit have played seven fewer matches than some of their Toolstation Western League Division One rivals, but still find themselves in with a shout of promotion.
Their 3-1 triumph at Cribbs Friends Life on Saturday was their third in succession this month after rain and ice hit surfaces so badly Sherborne had almost a month without competitive action.
However, Manley used the time wisely and said a gruelling training schedule has created a hard-working togetherness in the dressing room, as well as extra defensive resolve.
He said: "We have tightened up a lot since the break. It has done us the world of good. We have trained hard, our fitness levels are good and the way we are playing shows we are better at the back.
"Every single player is working so hard for each other and we are reaping the rewards of training. We are all looking forward to the next game and if we can keep results ticking over and pick up points we will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
"The break has brought the lads a lot closer together because they were training a lot and they are now champing at the bit to play games after that time off.
"We will keep taking one game at a time and we will see where we end up. I am not saying we will get promoted, but we will be close."
Sam Jarman, Matty Day and recent arrival from Magna Dorset Premier League Wincanton Town Mike Rousell got the goals in Bristol, with Manley not only praising his side's scoring capabilities but the impact of his recent signing.
"We had a couple missing at the weekend, with Tony Cunningham and Harry Montacute both away," he said. "Some others got the chance to play and they took it. It was a great team performance.
"Going forward we have got goals all over the pitch. I have known that all season, we have just leaked goals and given away sloppy goals. But in the last three we have been tight, only conceding an (Aaron Mead) own goal.
"We have been solid and that's the main thing and a clean sheet always gives you a chance of winning."
On Rousell, Manley said: "He runs the channels well, he gets in behind and he gives us something different. It has just freshened up the squad a bit so it was great to bring him in.
"He can play in different positions so it keeps the lads on their toes. He has started well, he gets involved and hopefully he will keep it going and the other lads will put the pressure on him.
"We have unfortunately lost Dean Corden (to Yeovil and District League Brhoden) because he has work commitments.
"Work has to come first and we have been lucky to bring in Mike. It has not upset us too much and hopefully Dean will come back when he has more time."
Table-topping Hengrove Athletic visit Dorset on Saturday.