TODAY’S trip to Carlisle United will be a good yardstick for where Swindon Town are at the start of their League Two campaign, says David Flitcroft.

Much has been made of the start of the League Two season, with the new Town boss keen to make his mark early on.

However, having seen opening games of the season fall flat before, Flitcroft is keen to make it crystal clear that nothing will be decided based on the team’s result at Carlisle United and that he is playing the long game.

“Sometimes it can be a damp squib. We expect too much,” he said of the big kick-off.

“We have eight weeks off without football and then, up and down the country, there’s sometimes disappointment.

“It’s 46 games. We’re in for the long haul, we in it to keep improving and I think it will be a great sizer.

“We’ve played some different teams over the pre-season period and this will give us the opportunity to play one of the promotion rivals who will definitely be up there this season.”

Carlisle will be without four players as they enter the opening game, with manager Keith Curle yesterday ruling out Samir Nabi, Kelvin Etuhu, Jason Kennedy and John O’Sullivan.

However, Flitcroft is not underestimating a side that finished in the play-off places last term and is anticipating plenty of twists and turns as the League Two season unfolds.

“I’m expecting a real professional team,” said Flitcroft of Carlisle.

“Keith Curle’s teams are very professional and Keith has been building a promotion squad over three years and one thing he has put in place is a real professional environment.

“It’s up to us to go up there and be very professional ourselves and be very competitive.

“That’s what I am expecting from the team and that’s what we’ll be coming up against on Saturday.

“I think League Two is an unpredictable league. You have seen it with Wycombe and Accrington, two teams who have probably not got the biggest budgets but are always up there because of the work rate and the togetherness.

“In League Two, the big hitters are usually up there but there are always two or three surprise packages.

“There might be three or four who are in there taking points off teams and you will have some unusual ones all season.”

Having experimented with personnel and formations throughout pre-season to assess his 10 new signings as well as those already at the club, Flitcroft is pretty confident he knows what his starting XI is.

The 43-year-old’s final decision will be based on how he anticipates the game with Carlisle panning out and the players he will need to combat that, with anyone left out clear of the reasons why.

“We’re getting closer to (knowing the starting 11), that’s for sure,” he explained.

“There is rationale behind every decision I make. There is always a football decision and I explain that to the players.”