Brackley boss Johnson wants players to ‘lay down a marker’ at Blyth
The Saints head to the north-east sitting on top of the table after a fine run of form since Johnson arrived as the new manager at St James Park.
He suffered his first defeat since taking charge when a much-changed Brackley side lost 1-0 at National League South outfit Braintree Town in the second round of the Isuzu FA Trophy last Saturday.
But a promotion challenge is the main aim for Johnson and he insists this weekend’s clash and the next month of action will give an indication of where Brackley’s season will take them.
“We have had a good run now but I will be calling on all of them again to hit it hard,” the Brackley boss said.
“These are tests now, these games. People will look at it and it’s top of the league against a team who are down there but these are not easy games.
“It’s a hell of a journey, we will be going on the day and the mental side of it comes into play.
“This is a test now. Are we just having a little bit of a good run or are we going to go again and lay a proper marker down to the rest?
“Everyone wants to beat us because we’re sat at the top of the tree and that’s football, I’m afraid.
“There has been some well earned rest for the players and, with what’s coming up, we will need everyone available.
“December is probably going to play a massive part in where we are going to finish because we have some really tough games against sides around us.
“If you want to win the league, you’ve got to show up and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Despite the loss last Saturday, Johnson felt it was a valuable “exercise” for him and a number of players who were given the chance to impress as the manager rang the changes to his starting XI.
“It was a good exercise for the lads who haven’t been playing,” he added.
“I said I was going to make changes and I’d told the lads to get their heads around it and prepare to play.
“It was a massive thing for me to see these boys. We’re not full-time and game time for some of them is limited and difficult.
“There’s nothing like seeing the lads play right in front of your face so, from that point of view, it was massively beneficial.
“We did alright. There were some good performances.
“I thought we deserved to take it to a penalty shoot-out. The boys did what I asked them to do but we just lacked it in the final third in the end.”