Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray thinks Saturday’s visitors and play-off rivals Portsmouth are starting to feel the pressure as the clubs go into the last 10 games of the season.
Former Chesterfield boss Paul Cook this week wrote off Pompey’s hopes of making the automatic top three places, resigning the club to trying to secure a place in the lottery of the play-offs.
“I think it’s a big statement,” said Murray. “For me Cooky is the best manager in this league. I think he has proven that and has nothing more to prove.
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“He has put together a squad of exceptional players at a massive club. They expected to be in the top three, which is understandable, and it hasn’t gone as smoothly as they expected.
“But he has brought a lot of new players in like ourselves and it will always take time to click.
“It’s a club where there will always be pressure on them. They are obviously feeling a bit of pressure now. They have to win football matches to stay in the top seven now.
“If that’s their view that they can’t get automatic promotion – and it is a crazy league so you never know, especially this season - but if they are looking at automatic being out the window, then they are going to have to win to stay in the top seven.”
After three 1-0 defeats, Stags have slipped to 11th, five points off the top seven, but Pompey crashed 3-0 at home to Newport last week and are sixth, six points off the top three but eight ahead of the Stags.
“We are on the chase and sometimes it’s tougher to stay in there when things are not going smoothly, as we found,” said Murray.
“They have to come and beat us. They have to come and win and I imagine that is a different pressure to ours.
“They have to get promoted as, being the club they are, they have been in this league way too long. The resources they have they need to get out of this league, and I have no doubt Cooky will do that eventually.
“At the moment the pressure cooker has probably gone up a bit as they are not where they expect to be.”
Both sides have spent all week smarting from costly defeats last weekend and Murray added: “We are all hurting.
“It’s that stage of the season where losses hurt more, wins mean more, heads roll more, parties are bigger.
“You look at Newport – they beat us and then they’ve beaten a lot of teams recently, and they beat Portsmouth last weekend.
“You look at Yeovil, they beat us and they’ve beaten a lot of teams recently. So it’s been a tough run for us and Portsmouth found that out on Saturday against Newport.
“After that great win at Accrington they took one on the chin on Saturday. But Portsmouth are Portsmouth. They have a very good group of footballers.
“But we went down there and more than matched them and will look to do the same on Saturday.
“Being the biggest club in this league so the expectation on them is real expectation. That’s real pressure.
“When you’re at a club like that and have the resources they have you are expected to get promoted. Cooky understands that. If we had those resources I’d have that pressure to get promoted on me.
“No one has told me but I don’t think my expectation is to win the league.
“It will be a tough game as this whole block of games is – it’s a real pain in the backside this block.
“But in a way it couldn’t be better as, if you win games, you catapult yourself straight back in it.”
The size of the away following on Saturday will underline the gulf in resources and size of the two clubs.
Murraay continued: “It will be a full away end. They are a massive club. Look at their home crowds.
“When we were at home against Yeovil two points off the play-offs, we got 2,700. It is a massive gulf. We get that and accept that. But it doesn’t mean we can’t beat these teams or compete with them.
“Saturday will be a good atmosphere – rocking and rolling. The two set of fans always get on so let’s hope we give our fans something to brag about and cheer about.”