Experienced midfield ace Neal Bishop believes that once you look past the heartbreaking end to last season, it is obvious this Mansfield Town squad are not far off where they need to be for glory.
Stags just needed one win from their last three games to go up, but they failed and were then beaten in the play-off semi-finals.
It left the players and fans shattered, but Bishop said: “If you look at last season, there wasn’t a lot wrong.
“I know the way it ended was massively disappointing. But that can lead to wild statements and social media meltdown, saying it was rubbish.
“But if you look at it in the cold light of day we were not far off.
“If it wasn’t for that heartbreaking end to the season we’d be in League One now.
“That was down to us as players. We had three games to get one win at the end of the season and didn’t manage it.
“But the quality was here. Now the gaffer has come in with his own ideas, tweaked one or two things, and hopefully they will make the difference come the end of the season.
“If we can produce what we produced in the main last season with the extra quality that’s come in we should be there or thereabouts. There is no excuse for us not to be.”
Bishop was happy with Stags’ second half showing in the thrilling 2-2 opener at Newport on Saturday.
“It was carnage – especially the first 60-70 minutes. It probably had everything for the neutral,” he said.
“Obviously the first 45 minutes we were way off it by our own standards. We know that and we’ve already spoken about that. That was not acceptable from us as a group.
“But the management tweaked things at half-time and it looked like we were going to win it.
“To be honest I think we would have done with 11 men on the pitch. Obviously we missed the penalty but these things happen.
“It was then a great shift by the lads for the last half-hour to hold on for a point which is a point better off than we got down there last season which is a positive we have to take.
“It’s a point away from home and it was probably a fair result.
“But we know we’ve got to be much better than that if we want to achieve the goals we’ve set ourselves this season.” Bishop said there were some huge turning points that saw their chances of a likely away win fade as Nicky Maynard’s spot kick was saved and Jacob Mellis was red-carded.
“The sending-off and the penalty miss were two massive things in their favour,” he said.
“At that time we were dominating the game and it gives them a massive pick-me-up and boost their crowd. The momentum then swings their way.
“But I am not blaming anyone and we’re not blaming anyone as a group. We win and lose as a squad. We did what we had to do when we were down to 10 men.
“We wanted to be nice and compact and make them go down the outside and not come through the middle of us.
“It was a great effort from the lads who started the game and the subs came on and made a massive impact. We were more than worth a point in the end but we know we need to improve from that first half.”