By Tony Leighton
It's perhaps a tad early to be proffering good wishes for the festive period, but Leyton Orient fans will most certainly be doing that to manager Russell Slade and his team as they look to extend their tremendous recent run and put themselves on the npower League 1 promotion trail by the end of the busy spell of matches around Christmas.
After winning their last seven League and cup games, the O's have climbed from just two points above the relegation zone to within six points of the Play-Off places and, for good measure, they have also earned themselves a place in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy's Southern Section semi-final and the third round of the FA Cup.
With their next two League 1 outings against Bury and Scunthorpe United, both sitting in the drop zone, it is certainly looking good for Slade's side to continue their run of success and push themselves even closer to the top six. But the experienced manager strongly warns against thinking that victories are a given in these two games.
Slade told football-league.co.uk: "Supporters might look at the table before going to a match and think, 'that should be three points for us,' but I always go on current form rather then the table and both Bury and Scunthorpe have picked up of late after appointing new managers. So the last few results of opponents are what I look at.
"Bury in particular have been going well - they've only lost one of their last nine League and cup games and when Bournemouth, one of the division's form teams, went there recently they only took a point away through a 93rd-minute equaliser. Bury haven't lost at home for two months, so don't tell me it's a guaranteed three points."
Point taken, Mr Slade! And with League games against the likes of Notts County and Swindon Town also coming up, there is no denying that it will be a tall order for Orient to maintain their winning streak throughout the six-match sequence they have before travelling to Championship team Hull City in round three of the FA Cup.
But after bouncing back in style from a disastrous run that saw them suffer six defeats in seven League 1 games, Slade is optimistic that the O's can mount a serious promotion challenge if they reach the new year with a continuation of their much-improved results. "I regard December as a key month," said the manager.
"The games have already been coming thick and fast, partly because of our cup runs, but that intensity is not about to let up and it's a testing time when you've not got the biggest of squads. If we can maintain our momentum and come out of December in the top 10 though, that will give us a real chance to push further up the table."
For all the latest news on Leyton Orient please click here