CAN you hear that sound? The sound of pistons going up and down. High pressure steam being released through an escape valve. Coal being shovelled into a roaring hot fire. Whisper it quietly; you can almost hear the unmistakable sound of the Darlo steamroller being fired up after having been mothballed for a couple of years.

Six wins from our last seven league matches, it feels like we’ve gone back four or five years to a time when winning was the norm, not the exception.

Saturday’s win over Alfreton Town at fortress Blackwell Meadows felt very much like any of the many regulation wins achieved during our traverse of the two divisions of the Northern Premier League. We weren’t at our best, but our level was suitably high enough to comfortably see off our visitors from Derbyshire.

As is often the case when facing a Billy Heath rugby side, we had to deal with a greater than usual physical threat. Many a time last season, that would have been our undoing but our side of pocket battleships is a lot more sturdy than they appear at first glance. While Alfreton gave us plenty to think about, their lack of any real guile ultimately meant we could deal with their threat.

At half time it felt like we needed to up our level in order to establish a firm grip on the game and to be fair to the players they did just that. As it turned out, the game ended up being very comfortable and, in reality, we probably could have had more than the three goals we scored. Just as impressive as the win itself was seeing our larger, improved quality squad deal with yet another run of frustrating injury concerns. The excellent Alex Storey was missing; no problems. Terry Galbraith then went down injured. Problem? Apparently not. Sean Reid pulled a Liam Hughes and slotted into the back line seamlessly. In fact, it was his and Louis Laing’s control of the game from the back which seemed to provide us with the overall control of the game.

Goals win games and for only the second time this season, we managed to chalk up three in a league game. After what appeared to be a difficult game for Adam Campbell against Harrogate Town the week before, I thought Saturday might be a good chance to give him a bit of a breather. It shows what I know. He was buzzing throughout his time on the pitch. He took his goals really well and his movement both on and off the ball caused Alfreton no end of problems. It looks like my managerial career will remain firmly ensconced within Football Manager.

Of course, I jest about the steamroller firing up. Our current run of form has been excellent but as we have seen this season there’s always a couple of defeats hiding around the corner waiting to pounce. We may be in the playoffs now, but we could easily be in the bottom half of the table come Saturday night. With the table being as congested as it is, consistency is going to be crucial if we’re going to gatecrash the playoffs.

As well as we’ve played recently, the next few weeks are going to severely stress-test our playoff credentials. There are lots of away games at sides that are just as desperate for the points as we are. We will need to show all of the resolve seen in recent games and then maybe even some more. We’ll need to take our chances when they come. We, as fans, will need to get right behind the side and continue to be the 12th man. The acid test starts now and I fancy by the time we get to the end of February, we’ll still be right in the mix.