With just 16 games to go, Mansfield Town boss said the intensity in training had gone up another gear this week with his three new signings wanting to impress ahead of Saturday’s crucial six-pointer at Swindon Town.
Ricky Miller starred in the midweek behind-closed-doors game against League One Peterborough United, but fellow new signings Matt Penney and Adam King also impressed.
“Training has stepped up in all areas,” said manager Steve Evans as his side aim to make it 10 unbeaten this weekend and try to get into the top three.
“Sometimes you look at an area or position in your team where there’s not lots of options without moving things around.
“But suddenly you bring players in that are very talented in those areas, then performances go up. I think there is a real focus in training.
“We are in great shape with real competition – the boys are buzzing. We are in a good place.”
Mansfield have only lost five League Two games all season – less than anyone else – but have a score to settle with the Robins on Saturday after Swindon coasted to a 3-1 win at the One Call Stadium back on 14th October.
“We have certainly come a long way since then,” said Evans.
“I think Swindon were excellent on the day and they could have beaten us by more.
“You have to give credit to Dave Flitcroft (manager) and Futch (assistant Ben Futcher) for setting those boys up the way they did. They had a real focus.
“We were particularly poor on the day, but that doesn’t take anything away from a good Swindon display. I thought they were terrific.
“I think they have significantly strengthened since then. You have to strengthen when you bring in the likes of Marc Richards. That makes you better in League Two every day of the week.
“He is a player I’ve tried to sign two or three times back in my Rotherham days. I always regretted not getting him as he is a natural goalscorer and a leader.
“But we are a different side too and our personnel is different. We are in a different place.”
He continued: “I’ve always loved taking teams to Swindon. It’s a fantastic stadium with brilliant supporters who get right behind them.” Evans was the Robins’ managerial target before Flitcroft and he smiled: “Of course, I could have been on the home bench on Saturday couldn’t I after Swindon made an approach for me?
“But our chairman here turned it down. It’s a great club. If a big club like Swindon wanted to speak to us then it tells you we’re doing a good job – that’s thanks to the players.”
He added: “We have to be much better than we were in October. If we produce that October performance we will lose by a minimum of three as we could have done that day.
“I think Swindon have improved. But we have too. So it has all the hallmarks of a good, entertaining game with two teams that like to pass the ball.”
Stags face three games in eight days against promotion rivals this week.
“We realise we have a tough seven to 10 days ahead of us. But no tougher than the last seven to 10,” said Evans,
“We are in a league in which it’s really tough to win games. There will be three or four shock results again this Saturday.”