ROSS Speight believes Middlewich Town’s season is entering a defining fortnight and has said successive knockout wins can be the catalyst for a stirring finish.

The Witches host Cuddington in the Mid-Cheshire District FA Saturday Challenge Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

A week later Ashton Athletic’s reserves visit Seddon Street when the Cheshire League’s President’s Cup resumes.

Both are lower-ranked opponents.

“The carrot for our lads is setting up a fantastic run-in,” said the co-manager.

“We can’t win the league now and so we’re looking at these competitions as an opportunity to finish on a high.”

During an interview with the Guardian last month, he said underperforming players had become a ‘soft touch’ after a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Pilkington extended a run with a victory to nine matches.

They have not lost since.

READ > Why time is up for underperforming Middlewich players

Town brushed aside Over 3 Grange in the district cup before beating Egerton in the Cheshire League’s top-flight.

A 1-1 draw with Greenalls last time out leaves them fourth in the Premier Division table with three games to go.

Speight said: “It’s almost as if we’ve reset.

“It’s not our style to criticise the team publicly but we couldn’t carry on protecting them.

“Perhaps it was a risk, but we had to be honest.

“I think it shocked a few of them, and to be fair we’ve seen a reaction.”

He said having key players back from injury, and recovering lost form, had made a difference to Town’s fortunes too.

Together with joint bosses John O’Sullivan and Michael Welch, he has selected a consistent line-up in recent weeks.

“We’ve looked more solid and that’s because we’ve got back the spine of our side,” he added.

Middlewich are favourites to beat Cuddington, who occupy second spot in Cheshire League Two.

However they must be wary of opponents that eliminated them at the same stage three years ago and who travel from Northwich buoyed by back-to-back wins.

Speight said: “I certainly won’t be sleeping on them.

“They’ll raise their game and try to cause an upset.

“The challenge for us is to find a level of consistency again; too often this season we’ve excelled one Saturday only to look like the Dog & Duck seven days later.”

If the scores are level after 90 minutes then a penalty shoot-out decides the winner.