James Curtis feels that Gateshead are working harder than ever as they prepare to usher in a significant period in their season.
Neil Aspin’s side take on FC Halifax Town at the International Stadium on Wednesday night with a place in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy at stake.
Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division outfit Nantwich Town await the victors, as the Tynesiders bid to return to Wembley two years on from their last visit.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw at the Shay marked the Heed’s sixth shutout in nine games, Curtis lining up alongside skipper Ben Clark in the heart of the back-four.
The Tynesiders have shipped just nine goals this calendar year, four of which came against Dover Athletic at the Crabble Athletic Ground a fortnight ago.
On the whole, however, Curtis believes Gateshead are in fine shape defensively, and paid tribute to his fellow centre-back after another impressive shift.
He said: “Earlier in the season, we were conceding too many goals in a lot of games, and we hope that the Dover game was a one-off because we’ve done very well as a unit lately.
“I think it has been a big part of our improvement.
“Alex and Benno have come in and done very well, and Skip has had a great season.
“He’s been very consistent. He leads by example and that’s just what we need – someone to spur us on.
“It’s good to be keeping clean sheets, but I think that’s down to the whole team working harder.
“Everyone’s putting in a shift at the moment, and if you can do that there’s every chance you can keep a lot of clean sheets.”
Curtis is one of six survivors from the Heed’s last trip to Wembley, but is refusing to think too much about a potential return.
The 33-year-old felt a draw was a fair outcome at the Shay on Saturday, content to bring the West Yorkshire outfit back to the International Stadium.
He said: “We’ll be hoping to win the replay, but we were hoping to win the game on Saturday.
“I think we probably had the better chances, though we didn’t really get going in the second-half.
“Sam Russell didn’t have too much to do, and it was another good defensive performance.
“Over two legs we would fancy our chances against anyone, but we have to concentrate on Wednesday first, and that’s our only focus for now.”