Steve Evans says he wants Mansfield Town to emerge from a testing festive period within touching distance of the play-off places.
The Stags face two home games before the year is out and then a trip to Blackpool for the opening fixure of 2017, looking to arrest a run of three league matches without a win.
They remain just five points outside the play-offs despite being in 17th position in what is again proving a very tight League Two, and Evans doesn’t want to see that gap widen.
He said: “We face Morecambe and Doncaster at home and then Blackpool away, and frankly we must make sure we’re within six points of the play-off zone at the end of that spell.
“If we can achieve that it will be an interesting second half of the season. I know what I want to do and the chairman and CEO here are backing that, and it excites me because we can be so much better and be a much more exciting team to watch next year.”
Boxing Day’s opponents Morecambe lie just two places and three points below Mansfield in the table with a game in hand, and Evans knows they are highly capable of beating his men if Stags aren’t at their best.
He said: “They’re unpredictable. Jim Bentley has done a staggeringly good job there in the circumstances he’s faced at times. They’re capable of beating the leaders or losing to the bottom side, as we can be too, but they have lots of winners in their team and a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Reflecting on his first few weeks in charge of the Stags, Evans said: “It’s been enjoyable so far, and also heartwarming given the response I’ve had from people in the town. I’m tired, given the amount of work and analysis we’re putting in, but hopefully it’ll all be to the benefit of Mansfield Town.”
“Parts of two games weren’t good enough, namely the first half-an-hour against Exeter on Saturday and also a third of the game at Carlisle in the league.
“The performances in those spells were unacceptable in any shape or form, but the days have gone where you just hammer the players and shout at them, it’s about educating them and working with them in house to put things right. In other games we’ve done well, particularly the wins over Crawley and Blackpool and being unlucky not to beat Colchester.”
Two as yet unnamed new signings look set to be annoucned once the transfer window reopens, with Evans adding: “We need to make sure that in the second-half of the season we’re much stronger.
“We’re getting very close to deciding what personnel need to change, although we’re at a time of year where someone having a good couple of games over Christmas can change that whole picture.
“We’ve worked very closely with the players for four weeks and the chairman and CEO talk to us regularly so we know how we’re all thinking. We’re deep in conversations with two or three more players although we won’t be bringing in huge numbers.
“The new faces have lots of quality and are dependable. Fans will be able to judge them with their own eyes and I think they’ll be pleased with what they see.”