Mansfield Town veteran Neal Bishop has told his promotion-chasing team mates to believe in their ability as they head for rivals Exeter City aiming to halt an ill-timed four-game streak without a win.
Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Crewe Alexandra saw Stags drop out the top three and Bishop admitted: “We are desperate for Saturday to come quickly so we can get on the pitch, start putting things right and hopefully get ourselves back in the top three.
“There are seven games left and no time to feel sorry for yourself.
“You have got to have belief in yourself and your team mates. I think we maybe lacked a bit of that for some reason on Saturday.
“But there was no reason why we should as the ability in there is really, really good.
“I have played League Two, League One, Championship, all around, and this dressing room is a good one.
“It has lots of ability in there compared to other dressing rooms I have been in and there is more than enough in there to get out of this division. The quicker they start believing in themselves the better.”
He continued: “As a football club we have got to move forward. All is there to play for. We are fourth in the league.
“Forgetting the recent results, if you take a look at the league table as an individual thing, you would probably say we’re in a great position.
“You look at the run-ins and it’s seven games to put ourselves in the history books of this football club.
“It’s not something to be feared. It’s not something to be scared of. “It’s something to relish and we should enjoy every last minute of this last five or six weeks.”
Two Callum Ainley goals in the second half shot down a strangely lacklustre Mansfield last weekend and Bishop said: “It was disappointing all round.
“It never really got started or up to any sort of tempo, which is unusual considering how we have played at home recently and all season.
“It was massively disappointing coming off the back of a good performance and a decent point against Lincoln a few days before.
“We have got to look at ourselves as players, accept that’s not good enough and we need improve for the last seven games.
“We all knew what a big game it was on Saturday and to not perform in it was disappointing.
“We need to get back to what we do well, which is pressing, a good tempo, getting the ball wide and creating chances.”
He added: “We just looked shy of confidence for some reason. It never got going from minute one and, once you don’t start well, it’s hard to change the flow and the tempo of a game.
“Everything comes off a good start as you saw against Lincoln. The start carried us through the rest of the game.
“But if you start sloppy and slow it’s very hard to pick yourselves up mid-game.
“We tried to change things during the game and sent a couple of subs on, but nothing really worked.
“We have to take it on the chin, admit we were not good enough, and get back on the training ground and work hard. That’s all you can do.
“The good thing in football is there is usually another game to put it right and you always get another chance.”
It didn’t help Mansfield that Crewe were mid-table with no real pressure on them.
“You could tell that by the way they played,” said Bishop.
“There were times when you looked around and they were leaving three or four people up the pitch as, when you’ve not got that pressure, you switch off defensively. We didn’t cope with it well enough.
“But we have got over Saturday. There is no over-reaction. We understand what went wrong and we will try to put it right.
“Exeter will be a different type of game. They are in the last play-off place at the minute so there is big pressure on them to try to stay in there.
“They will be looking at us thinking they can catch us if they turn us over. But we are not worried about that. We are only going down there to win the game and get ourselves back in the top three.
“That’s been our aim all season – to get in that top three. It is a pressure we should relish.”
Bishop said players need to realise that chances like this don’t come around often in a career.
“I can speak from experience as I am older than the majority here – you don’t get as many times as you think you are going to get in your career to achieve promotion or something really special,” he said.
“We’ve still got the chance. We have got to move on from last weekend and accept we have still got a massive opportunity to do something great at this football club.
“We need a win as that builds confidence.
“At Notts County in the last 18-20 games we were just winning, and once you get on that winning roll, the mentality around the club changes, the supporters get on board, and it’s a hard thing to stop.
“It carried us all the way to the top of the table, which we won easily in the end when we were outside the play-offs at one point. It just shows you what momentum can do.”
Bishop also called on Mansfield’s worried fans to stick by them for the last seven games.
“You can’t ask too much of the supporters because they have been brilliant all season,” he said.
“I have to say a massive thank you to them in particular. When you got to any new club you have to prove yourself, and from minute one they’ve been fantastic.
“We need everyone to get with us whatever happens - and there might be a few more lows yet but plenty of highs between now and the end of the season.
“This is it. This is the business end of the season.
“Everyone inside the club is pulling in the same direction and we need everyone on board.
“Football clubs are successful when everyone is pulling in the same direction and supporters can’t under-estimate what a massive influence they can have, especially in the home games here.
“Away has always been brilliant too with supporters making good noise. The ones that travel down to Exeter on Saturday will be in full voice.”