Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans has warned fans to ignore the current League Two table when bottom side Newport County visit One Call Stadium on Saturday.
The Welsh club may only have won just once in 17 games, but are improving with a win and five draws in their previous six before last weekend’s defeat.
Evans said: “We know how difficult it’s going to be, but we can’t stop our supporters looking at league tables and looking at newspapers at what, in their opinion, should be easy, but there is not a game in this league that is ever easy.
“They lost on Saturday but I have no idea how after I watched the game back. They lost after eight or nine games themselves unbeaten, and that includes three or four of the teams in the top six or seven. Every game is tough.”
He added “They wouldn’t be at the bottom of the table if Graham Westley (current manager) had been there last July – that’s my belief.
“He has taken the approach that when you’re down there and you are battling, you have to find the type of players that are prepared to give everything for you.
“Mitch Rose, who we let go down there, is a wonderful kid and a good player. He has signed a lot like that who have a never-say-die attitude and if you beat Newport County, you’ve earned your spurs. You’ve deserved it.”
Far from berating his players for their last two results, Evans is lifting them with praise.
“I had a good meeting with the players and told them how well they’d done,” he said.
“Forgetting Saturday, the point against Accrington could be a good one. They beat Colchester United on Saturday. We condemned a 4-4 draw and we didn’t defend well, but we scored four times.
“I reminded the players from when we walked in here to where we are now, to take 30 points from 16 games I have to applaud them. But we need to get back to winning ways and we need to do it sooner than later. “We have 14 games left and we play I think it’s eight or nine out of the top 10. That’s wonderful.
“That’s not a disadvantage to us. We fancy ourselves against those teams. Our fate is in our hands. We are not looking at other results around the country.
“We have two or three games that are not involved at that end of the league straight afterwards.
“When we get into the last single figure games of the season we are suddenly playing all the teams around us. And single figure games come thick and fast and go very quickly and people are squeaking all over the place.
“We won’t be squeaking, we will be trying to win the games.”
Despite a poor December Stags have stayed in the running and Evans said: “We didn’t have a good December and everyone had wrote us off by Christmas Day.
“But this group has achieved far more than anyone expected. I think the reality is, in only mine and Paul Raynor’s opinions, is that this team would have been fighting relegation if we’d not come in - the team that was, not the team that is now.
“We kept some great players and added to the group with some additional good players. We have a fantastic dressing room with fantastic spirit.”
He concluded: “If we can achieve the play-offs I think people wider in football will talk about what a job I’ve done. But I don’t take no credit here.
“The credit belongs in the dressing room 100 per cent. I have told the players they will be the difference as we go forward.
“We are so proud of what we’ve achieved. To get 30 points from 16 games is championship form and if we can get as near as damn it that again in the remaining games we will deliver a play-off place.
“Then I don’t care who we play in the play-offs. Bring the biggest, bring the smallest, if we get in the play-offs I think we’ll win them.”