BRIAN Smikle says Hereford United's financial struggles have galvanised the team ahead of their mouth-watering FA Cup second-round tie at Cheltenham Town on Monday.
The 27-year-old forward left Cheltenham in the summer and after spending time on trial at Accrington Stanley, where he turned down the offer of a contract, and Scunthorpe, he signed non-contract forms with the Bulls a week into the new campaign.
He will return to Whaddon Road for the first time along with Andy Gallinagh.
But the three other members of the ex-Robins contingent will all miss out through injury.
Michael Townsend has been sidelined for nearly three months with a back problem, while winger Marley Watkins and Marlon Jackson, who had a brief spell on loan from Bristol City last term, are also out.
Smikle has been used predominantly on the wing for Blue Square Bet Premier club Hereford, having made the majority of his appearances in his two years with Cheltenham at the top of a midfield diamond.
Hereford have been unable to pay their players' wages at times due to a crippling financial shortfall.
Their televised tie at Cheltenham will provide a lifeline to a club that dropped out of the Football League last season.
Smikle said the players had no choice but to pull together and battle through the difficult times and he believes that has been borne out on the pitch.
"The team spirit has kept us going really and we played our hearts out to beat Shrewsbury in the last round of the FA Cup," Smikle said.
"We only have 17 players at the moment and I've never been at a club in a position like this before, but we will all dig in and stick together.
"We've all dealt with it and focused purely on the football, but we all know how important the Cheltenham match is going to be for the club, especially if we can make it through to the third round."
Smikle travels into training every day with Evesham-based Gallinagh, who progressed through the youth ranks at Cheltenham to become a popular player for his whole-hearted performances across the back four.
"It was a strange feeling when the draw came out because we had a fairly local derby match against Shrewsbury and I didn't think for a minute we'd have another one in the second round," Smikle said.
"It's a very good draw and everyone knows Hereford have a good record against Cheltenham, so we want to keep that going.
"I loved my time there and I am still in touch with a lot of the lads.
"It will be the first time I've come up against a team managed by Mark Yates, who I played for at Kidderminster and Cheltenham and I am looking forward to the game.
"I know Gallers is pumped up for this one and it will be good to see all the lads, but when the match starts we'll be fully focused on doing well for Hereford.
"Cheltenham have been flying in the league and there hasn't been much banter flying around yet, but I am expecting a few sly texts in the next few days!"
Hereford are expected to sell out their allocation of 1,300 tickets for the match, which will be screened live on ESPN.