Reds boss Danny Wilson believes competition for places as made his players raise their games.
Wilson has worked hard to recruit new additions during the past month or so with Ryan Williams and Marcello Trotta (pictured) having been recruited on loan from Premier League side Fulham.
And Wilson also brought experienced centre-back Peter Ramage back on loan for a second spell from Crystal Palace.
Manchester City loan striker Devante Cole has only added to competition for places having signed on loan until January.
“The new players have made the rest of the lads raise their games, without a doubt,” revealed Wilson, speaking exclusively to The Star.
“There’s real competition for places, so I’ve got no doubts that it’s made the players perform better.”
And the proof has been in the pudding with the Reds having strung together a much-needed three-match unbeaten run after successive defeats.
A battling 2-2 draw at home to League One leaders Bristol City – in a match which the Reds so nearly won – and then a fine 1-0 South Yorkshire derby victory away to arch-rivals Sheffield United started the ball rolling.
And then arguably the Reds’ best performance of the season so far came at home to Burton Albion in the first round of the FA Cup last Saturday.
The Reds hit the Brewers for five goals, achieved their second clean-sheet in successive matches and are rightly brimming with confidence ahead of tomorrow night’s re-arranged home clash with Colchester United.
“The results have been great, but it’s the performances that have really pleased me,” admitted Wilson.
“It’s [some good results] have been coming for a while. I’ve taken a lot of encouragement from the way we’ve played, but of course it’s great when you get the results.”
Having conceded too many goals in the early part of the season, it was little wonder Wilson made his side work hard on the training pitch to try and eradicate the mistakes which had been costing them dear.
And changes in defensive, especially with the arrival of Ramage, has worked a treat.
‘Rambo’, as he is affectionately known to the manager and his teammates, has helped bring stability to the Reds’ back-line aloingside Lewin Nyatanga in central defence.
And Wilson has slotted the versatile Martin Cranie in at right-back. Skipper Cranie, a centre-half by preference, has been excellent, as has Joe Dudgeon, the Hull City loanee at left-back.
“We’ve tightened down a lot, it’s an area we’ve really worked on,” said Wilson.
“We’ve got more solidity now in the back four – and we know that keeping clean-sheets is the foundation for winning games.
“Maybe we a bit too expansive, but we’ve shut up shop more and Martin has helped at right-back.
“He’s obviously a centre-half by trade, but he’s done a good job there and the other boys are playing well.
“You’re never 100 per cent happy with the team, but we’re getting there. We’re getting better.”
Wilson has no injury worries ahead of his side’s league clash with the U’s, opponents who registered an entertaining 6-3 away victory over Conference South side Gosport Borough in the FA Cup last weekend.
Meanwhile, Reds’ teenager Rhys Oates, 19, has joined Chester on a one-month loan deal.