Adam Murray finds it hard to believe his side could surpass last year’s points total already and go a single point off the League Two automatic promotion spots with victory at rivals Oxford United tonight (7.45pm).
The Mansfield Town boss saw his side edge up to fifth with Saturday’s 2-1 win over Morecambe and is now preparing the Stags for a tough week with the game at third-placed Oxford United tonight followed by a game away at second-placed Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
Murray knows how big a win tonight would be, and said: “It would be crazy – phenomenal.
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“Like we keep saying, and I know it’s going to start winding some people up now, but we know we are way above where we expected to be.
“Now we’ve got two games this week that we can go into and won’t be expected to get anything from. There will only be our dressing room that believes we can go there and win – that’s both games – and we do.”
Stags are tonight going for a fourth win on the trot for the first time this season and their away form this season is superb, eight wins, two draws, four losses.
“We are not going there to shut up shop. We’re going there to win,” he said.
“The contrast where we’ve come in a season is phenomenal, and the boys have to take credit for that.
“We knew when we got past Christmas and had more time together, when we started to gel and things got tweaked, we’d get stronger – and that’s been the case.
“We are kicking on again now and there is a new energy about us.
“We understand these are two very tough games, we are not stupid.
“I think tonight will probably be our toughest encounter yet.
“I think they are a team that has to get promoted this season. They came out at the start of the season and said this is a no excuses environment, which is big for a club to say that as it leaves no stone unturned.
“They have signed very good players and have good resources and a good manager. They get 7,000, 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 a week. So fair play to them, you can’t knock them for it. They have set their stall out and set their target and they are achieving so far.
“They are a very good team and I enjoy watching them, but I don’t want to enjoy watching them tonight.
“You look at their squad, you look at their bench, they have good players literally everywhere. They have strength in depth, but we believe we can hurt them.”
He added: “We are on a good run of form and we are playing with a lot of belief.
“So we have got our own strengths and they will be scared of some of our players. They will be scared of some of our threats. Give us half a chance and we will punish them.
“In the part of the league that we are, we are the underdogs. That creates a fire and I think it showed on Saturday, when we are not expected to do this or that, it makes you hungrier to do it.
“With 16 games to go in that top 12 pack as underdogs, we just want to prove everybody wrong – and keep proving it.
“The facts are that we were odds on to get relegated this year. As soon as I saw that pre-season I thought, right, that’s not on – and I made sure the team knew about that. We want to keep improving.”
Murray was last night waiting on a report from last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Morecambe to see if he has avoided a touchline ban tonight after being sent off near the end.
Oxford head coach Michael Appleton said: “We know it is going to be a difficult game.
“Mansfield have cemented themselves in the play-off positions which is good from their point of view, but from our point of view it is an opportunity to take points off teams that are around us in that mix.
“It is an opportunity where we can really cement our position and three points is all we are thinking about and geared up for.
“We are aware of their strengths, we know they have got some decent ability.
“They have got a couple of ex-Oxford people in their camp so they are going to want to do well. You don’t want to sound arrogant, but I don’t really worry too much about the opposition from that point of view.
“We make sure the players are aware of their strengths so there are no surprises, but in terms of what we do it is about us and how we can win the game.”