Largely now written off for a place in the play-offs this season, Mansfield Town head for in-form Hartlepool United on Saturday hoping a powerful finish to the campaign can still see them sneak back into the top seven.
Stags are eight points short with seven games to go and boss Adam Murray said: “We said at the start of the season it was always going to be a tight affair.
“You say people have written us off now, but people had written us off at the start of the season so that’s nothing new.
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“You never know. If we win Saturday, all the teams above us are playing each other again.
“You come away with a win and everyone’s mind changes again and all of a sudden you’re going to win the Champions’ League again.
“But we are not looking at the league now. We are focussing on performances and putting performances in like we did on Monday, being ruthless at one end and solid at the other, and you never know.
“Whether we are involved in it or not, this will go down to the wire.
“For our first year back in the League we had probably double the resources we’ve got now and finished on 60 points.
“We are now seven points off that total with seven games to go – that’s on half the resources.
“So I am proud of my team and what they’ve done so far and I want as many points on the board as we can from the last seven games with 21 points to play for.
“What upped the expectation was our start to the season. But did anyone really expect us to get the play-offs? No, to be honest.
“Even when we were in there people were saying the wheels would fall off.
“What’s done us this season if we haven’t come out the top 10 for 90 per cent of it. That’s our downfall as everyone expects you to be up there then. “Realistically if we can get into the top half of the table this season, for this football club it is an achievement. Our early success probably put a burden on us.”
He added: “As much as people hate it you have to have patience and put building blocks in place. We will keep building and improving. We know we need to add certain bits to the squad but that was always the case.”
Stags need to end a run of six games without a win, and will face a Pools side that are unbeaten in six and have not conceded in their last four as new boss Craig Hignett steers them well clear of the trouble they were in.
“It’s been a recent trait of ours that we’ve played all the teams that were struggling when they’ve become Bayern Munich,” smiled Murray. “They’ve done a great job down there and changed things around.
“They’re looking very solid and hard to beat and getting results. So it will be a tough game away from home.
“But we will take our performance from Monday into Saturday. If we do that we are confident in our ability.”
On Hignett’s influence at Victoria Park, he said: “There is a little bit more stability in selection and probably a bit more organisation in the team. “They look very solid defensively but at the same time they have decent attacking threats. Hartlepool is always a tough place to go. It has been over the last two years, but we’ll take loads of confidence from our performance.
“This end of the season now is about us. We want to get past that 60-point mark and build from there as quickly as we can. You never know.”
Stags will be without suspended duo Jamie McGuire and Adi Yussuf while defender Ryan Tafazolli is trying to shake off a dead leg.
But winger Reggie Lambe is back from international duty with Bermuda and available again.