Adam Murray faces a race against time to bring in a striker to keep goal-shy Mansfield Town’s play-off hopes alive ahead of the loan transfer deadline a week on Thursday.
With Adi Yussuf now banned for five games over allegations of urinating in public at Plymouth, Craig Westcarr out on loan and Chris Beardsley struggling with his fitness, Stags have only Matt Green to call upon up front.
After the shock of the Yussuf ban on Friday morning, Murray missed out on three strikers before Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers with all three choosing to join Stags’ rivals.
Swansea City striker Oliver McBurnie chose Bristol Rovers, Plymouth signed Jamille Matt from League One side Fleetwood Town and AFC Wimbledon captured Oldham Athletic striker Rhys Murphy.
“It’s non-stop. I was on the phone all day yesterday. Every time I close my eyes I am seeing centre forwards,” said Murray as he tries to boost a side that has failed to score in four of their last five games.
“I’ve got the flu and all I can think of centre forwards! We’re working as hard as we can. We missed out on three within 24 hours last week.
“I thought I had one yesterday and that got ‘kiboshed’ while I was eating my Sunday dinner, so I didn’t even finish my Yorkshires which was disappointing as I look forward to them all week.”
Stags are now 11th, five points off the play-offs, after four defeats in the last five and Murray admitted: “It’s a learning curve for us as a football club as we should have strengthened when we were fifth and flying.
“It’s a really tough situation as you don’t want to split the group up and you don’t want players to think they are not good enough as I think they are.
“It’s about making things better and we should have done that. It’s a learning curve – not for me but for the club in general.
“You look at Northampton. They were top in January and signed six players – and hardly any of them are playing.”
Whoever Murray identifies to bring in, chairman John Radford is willing to back him financially.
But Murray admits it is unlikely a proven goalscorer would be available anywhere now this season and he may have to bring in a player who can work alongside Green and help him and the other players get on the scoresheet.
“What we won’t do is give in,” said Murray. “I spoke to the chairman on Saturday night and he said we’re still in it so go out and get a centre forward. He still believes and is fully behind it.
“At this time of the season, will we be able to go out and get an out and out goalscorer? I doubt it as the promotion teams are keeping them, the teams fighting relegation who have goalscorers are keeping them, and the ones in the middle are probably not good enough.
“It’s tough. But I think if we get the right personnel we’ve got goals in our team.
“Matt is a top goalscorer, a finisher, but he might need a bit of help. That’s what we aim to do - and I’ll give it everything I can as next Sunday I want my Yorkshire puddings.
“The amount of people I have spoken to yesterday and this morning already, there are a couple of things we are working on. It might have to be a gamble as as at this stage of the season Gary Lineker is not available.
“It may be we get a certain ingredient to get the best out of the good players we have got.”
It has been a frustrating time for Murray as Westcarr has failed to score regularly and Yussuf and Beardsley have both struggled with their fitness.
“When we have won games we have given Greeny a little bit of help,” he said.
“So people will go why aren’t you doing that? I am not stupid. I know Matt Green plays better with somebody.
“It’s a case of using the tools we have in the right way to get the most out of them.
“Now and next season we need to get people into the team who can play certain ways and formations.
“Right now it’s about what is best for the club and this group of players. The search is on at the minute.
“We need to being in someone to give us that bit of help. We have goalscorers in the team, but they need help. At the minute we’re asking them to do jobs that probably don’t suit them.
“So we are trying our hardest to get someone in that can fill that void. It’s not easy at this time of season.”
He added: “It’s a tough one with Chris and Adi.
“Adi has worked his socks off. We’ve spoken a lot of about Adi’s game time and fitness and that’s been a Catch 22.
“He was coming into a good run of form and looking strong and fit. We sat down and had a chat and said it was time now to come in and start games. But now he’s banned.
“Chris has had the fracture in his shin all season which he’s been playing catch-up over. So when he’s had that run of games he did a job for us.
“Chris has been more frustrated than anyone as it’s been a stop-start one for him. He missed a big part of the season when he wasn’t training or getting game time.
“So when we threw him in for that group of games he did really well before the group of games caught up with him. So we had to take him back out.
“Then you’re looking at other permutations to get the best out of what you’ve got. We are working hard.”