Manager John Dempster believes his Mansfield Town side have finally turned a corner.
Despite only two wins in the first 10 League Two games, which also saw 10 players unavailable at one time, Dempster saw enough in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Port Vale to suggest the hangover of last season’s promotion disappointment is finally over and they can begin to climb the table, starting with Saturday’s home clash with a powerful Plymouth Argyle.
“There were a lot of positives last weekend,” he said after his side dominated only to twice concede stoppage time equalisers in each half.
“The group and I feel like we’ve turned a real corner - and I firmly believe results will follow.
“The level of performance was high. Man for man, if you go through the starting XI, they all performed really well and covered every blade of grass. That’s the kind of team I expect to represent me and what I am about.
“We will be asking for more of the same on Saturday and, going forward, throughout the season, and results will come.
“When the players play with that bravery and intensity of getting the ball back, not only will we be successful, it’s great to watch as well.”
Dempster showed the door to three of his backroom staff last week while bringing in the inspirational Drewe Broughton to help with the mental side of the game for his players as he tries to end the hangover of last season’s play-offs defeat.
“There has been a bit of a hangover from last season which I was well aware of. That is natural when there has been disappointment,” he said.
“But didn’t realise how much it would linger on. It was probably my job to nip it in the bid sooner – and I felt I had.
“It is important we all come together and get past that – and I think we now have.
“We made some changes last week, which was tough as the three members of staff who left were very good people and good servants for the club.
“But we felt like we needed some fresh impetus and we are moving forward. I probably should have made more changes earlier.”
Dempster admitted it had been a baptism of fire in his first managerial role and feels it has already made him stronger.
“After a landmark of 10 games I feel like I have been through a hell of a lot,” he said.
“I feel I have learned no end from the experiences I have had and the mistakes I have made.
“I have never been more motivated and more confident we have turned a corner and will start to climb the table. But we will need to produce the performances we did on Saturday and against Cambridge until the sending-off.
“I have played in successful teams and there are always ups and downs over a season. “Different things happen and you have to remain strong and positive and have faith it will turn. If you can ride out the bad times and embrace the good times and ride the momentum, that’s what successful clubs do.”
He added: “To say it’s been eventful is an understatement. I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about players, human nature, and how people react in different circumstances.
“I am a stronger person for it - and I considered myself quite a tough cookie in the first place. It’s definitely hardened me and I am going to embrace the challenge ahead.
“It has surprised me how complex football management is. You are managing up, you are managing down and you are managing sideways.
“There is the human side of it. The players want to do well and they hold their hands up and admit they have under-performed for the first 10 games.”
Dempster said the pressure of the job not only affected him but also a wider circle of people connected to him
“I always knew the pressure would be big. But I probably didn’t realise the knock-on effect it would have to your friends and family,” he said.
“They are all desperate for you to do well. Your close friends and family are kicking every ball with you but you get messages of support as well from old friends and distant friends.
“I have had messages from former team mates, players in America who were at the academy a few years ago, wishing me well, parents of players I have worked with.
“The pressure is massive and I think when you have played for the club and been here a number of years, with the length of time I have, then the pressure is probably bigger.”
He concluded: “Some managers have a short term vision for themselves where I feel that I’ve got a long term vision for the football club and myself.
“I was aware there would be pressure. But it’s not something I’d ever shy away from and I will embrace it. I am fortunate to have the support I have got.”