Stags’ boss Adam Murray believes this season’s Sky Bet League 2 play-off hunt will ‘go down to the wire’ as a number of clubs chase the prestigious prize of League 1 football next season.
We slipped out of the top seven after a slender 1-0 defeat to Newport County at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
But Murray reckons his side must recover quickly from their setbacks, whilst reaffirming his faith in the players to extend their season by finishing in the play-off positions.
“We’ve had the rub of the green over the last few weeks. We’ve been on a great run and sometimes you have to take these punches in the belly and it hurts.
“This [chase for a play-off spot] will go down to the wire. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be tough for us. We know we’re doing above what was expected but we’re that close. I really believe we can do this.”
Furthermore, the 34-year-old boss thinks the Stags must find a balance in the coming weeks and months, although he doesn’t want to stick to a particular brand of football to get results.
“We’ve won a fair few games over the past few weeks by being a little bit more direct. Per game, we’re averaging about 100 to 150 passes less than we were six weeks ago. There’s a certain way we want to play but we want to win football matches.
“We can’t go away from playing football because I believe that’s not the way the game should be played. If you’re in control of the ball, you limit the opposition’s chance of beating you.
“When we’ve had a target man in the team, we’ve looked a little bit more effective. People [teams] have got a lot of bodies in midfield and if you lose that battle then you don’t get hold of the game.”
Mansfield and Stevenage are the only sides not to have a fixture on Tuesday evening (01 March) after having their match rearranged for January 09, when the Stags won 2-1. Nonetheless, Murray is keen to focus the attention away from how other clubs get on.
“We’ve got to play the teams around us. If we take points off them, we’ll be in the mix. I’m not really interested how tomorrow (Tuesday) goes. If we take care of our business, we’ll be in there [in the play-offs]. That’s the bottom line.
“If we don’t quite make it; okay, [I’ll be] disappointed but we go again. Everything we’ve got as a football club now, we’ve got to chuck at the last 12 games. I want my players virtually dead on that last day of the season!”
Looking ahead to Stags’ next game on Saturday (March 05) against a resurgent Yeovil Town at One Call Stadium, Murray thinks it will be a challenging contest as the Glovers try and stretch their advantage over the bottom two teams.
“We’ve watched Yeovil a few times and they’re in a false position. Fair play to the guys down there; they’ve got them pulling in the right direction. We know we’re in for a tough game on Saturday.
“With all due respect to Newport and Dagenham, I think Yeovil are on a different level. If they wouldn’t have had the start [to the season that they had], they’d be in the mix [the play-offs]. Their form at the minute is probably play-off form.”
Go to Stags Player to view Adam Murray’s news conference in full.