MANSFIELD Town boss Paul Cox is urging his side to brush off the weight of expectation and play with freedom when they entertain Gateshead at Field Mill tonight.
Stags are currently without a win in three - their worst run of the season so far - and need three points to get back amongst the play-off pack.
They currently sit five points behind York City in the last play-off place and will be looking to avenge their 3-0 defeat up in the north east back in August.
But Cox, who has set his side a target of 39 points from their opening 23 league matches, knows Gateshead will provide a tough test.
“We started very well up there, but two goals just killed us,”he said. “They have got a good manager and Gatesheaed are having a good season.
“Teams are up there for a reason and Gateshead have earned their right to be up there.
“The players wont dwell on what happened up their earlier in the season, we have progressed since then. It is important that we get back to earning the right to win football games.”
Focused Cox is also calling on his side to return to play with a smile on their face and forget the pressure of the fans.
Added Cox: “I want the lads to be positive, have a smile on their face and not worry about the expectation upon their shoulders. It is important that the expectation levels around the club do not put extra pressures on the team.
“There is high expectations at the club, but we need to manage those expectations and remain focused and consistent in our approach to achieving our goals.
“The building blocks are being put in place and it is important that we are patient and make progress. If we have 39 points from our opening 23 games, it is not a bad tally.”
Stags could give a debut to loan signing Marcus Kelly, who missed out against Bath at the weekend after picking up a knock in his first training session.
But full-back Joe Kendrick will miss out, but could feature on Saturday against Braintree after returning to training.