By Tony Leighton
As Brentford prepare to entertain Sheffield United on Saturday, defender Tony Craig is bracing himself for the second part of a thorough, seven-match examination of both the npower League 1 promotion credentials and Cup potential of the Bees.
They came through the first of their big tests with flying colours, winning 1-0 at sixth in the table Swindon Town on Tuesday evening to move up to seventh spot and level on points with the Robins.
And after taking on the second-placed Blades then meeting League 2 high-flyers Bradford City and Southend United - in the FA Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy respectively - their next three League 1 opponents are third in the table Milton Keynes Dons, Notts County (eighth) and Stevenage (fifth).
Experienced defender Craig, an ever-present in the Bees starting line-up following his close season move from Millwall, told football-league.co.uk: "It's certainly a testing time for us, but we're ready for it.
"We've only lost once in our last 15 League and Cup games, so confidence is high and we're looking forward to the games we've got coming up.
"The Sheffield United match is one to savour. They're one of the big clubs in the league, you look for them in the fixture list at the start of the season and there should be a buzz around the stadium with the crowd boosted by a lot of their fans.
"It will be a tough game, there's no doubt about that, but we'll be aiming to keep our good run going to set ourselves up for these next few difficult games."
Victory over the Blades would put Brentford just one point behind their opponents and establish the Griffin Park team as serious promotion contenders.
Craig knows what it takes to win promotion from League 1 having done so with his previous club Millwall in 2009/10, the Lions reaching the Championship via the Play-Offs 12 months after losing in the Play-Off Final.
The 27-year-old defender said: "You've obviously got to have quality in your side but one of the biggest things is team spirit, which we had massively at Millwall.
"It's the same here at Brentford, as I found out very quickly after joining the club. Before making my decision to come here I spoke to a number of people outside the club as well as the manager [Uwe Rosler] and nobody said a bad word about them.
"I felt they were a club on the up and now I think we're proving it - and if we can come through this next run of games with the results we want then we can hopefully push on to give ourselves a very successful season."
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