It is looking unlikely Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox will be able to bring in a loan striker in time for Stags’ crucial two home games in four days this week.
Stags, without a home win in their last 11 outings stretching back to 21st September, take on high-flyers Southend United on Saturday (3pm) and fellow strugglers Bury on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Cox missed out on his striker targets after being told there was no cash available for him in the January window, but last weekend learned he can bring in a loan player.
However, Cox said: “A lot of hard work has gone in. We have highlighted certain individuals and are talking to representatives, players and clubs. But nothing is happening at the minute.
“Something could happen in the next 24 hours or even early next week. But it is really early days yet.
“Players we were looking at have gone elsewhere so we haven’t as much to play with. But we are still working hard to make something happen.”
At least Cox does now have Ben Hutchinson back available for selection after he came through a midweek 2-0 reserves win over Sheffield Wednesday.
“The boys did well and there were some really good performances,” he said. “It is important we keep everyone fit now as everyone is going to be needed over this next 17 games. There is a good feeling in this group at the minute and they have a big smile on their faces.
“Ben Hutchinson scored as did Ross Dyer and there were some good performances, even from some of the kids which pleased me. The long term future of the club with some of the kids coming through looks positive.
“But it is the here and now we are concerned with and a number of players have put themselves in contention for Saturday.”
Stags crashed 3-0 against an in-form Southend at Roots Hall on 1st November and Cox said: “We didn’t really cover ourselves in glory down there and we ended up with nine men. But you have to give them credit as they are up there because they have been consistent.
“We now have 17 cup finals, and 10 of them are at home which means there are a possible 30 points to play for here, so we need everyone pulling in the same direction.
“Every team from seventh down is in a relegation battle. We have got to get our heads round it and hope we can pick up some points from this next two home games.
“We’ve got Bury on Tuesday and they have had a massive turnaround of players, I think seven or eight have moved on, and quite a lot of finance has been spent as they try to maintain their status in the League.”
One thing Mansfield have to stop is conceding injury time goals, which have cost them seven points already this season.
“Without that the picture would look very different,” said Cox. “We would be 10th and within a whisker of the play-offs. It’s all about concentration levels and decision-making.
“Last year we were able to see games out and win games. This season, if you give people opportunities in the first minute or the last you get punished.
“But against Accrington, Morecambe and Plymouth home and away, we have created enough chances to kill the game.
“It is the strikers at this level that decide games because they have that bit of quality to win games on their own.
“We have only lost one in seven but we need to start turning some of the draws into wins. Win two games and you can jump up six or seven places.
“Every manager from seventh downwards will be looking to get to 50+ points to make sure they survive this season. The biggest problem is that everyone is beating everyone else and no one is putting a run together.”
Cox admitted the off-field problems over income and the impending court case with former owners Steve Hymas and Andy Saunders demanding repayment of their loans were not helping the on-field situation.
“Since I have been here there always seems to have been politics at the club,” he said. “I am not a good politician and I don’t want to be a politician. I just try to affect the footballing side of the game. That’s all I can do.
“But I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect the footballing side.
“It affects players’ mindsets and supporters’ mindsets. Everyone is talking about other things instead of the football.
“We need everyone pulling in the same direction and getting this club safe and then bedding down next season in League football. But nothing surprises me in this game.”
Stags are waiting results of a scan on Lee Beevers’ shoulder, which he dislocated again in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Plymouth.
Cox is hoping the player will be able to strap it up and postpone any pinning operation until the summer.
One player definitely not involved this weekend will be striker Jake Speight who has now shrugged off a nasty lung infection only to see his problem knee swell up again.
Cox said: “You can’t help people getting injured or ill. Jake has been struggling with this for a long time over the festive period and is on steroids to try to clear it up.
“Then he returned to training and his knee blew up again. It is frustrating for me as a manager as he is a natural goalscorer and a very good player.”