Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox is keeping a cool, clear head and maintaining Saturday’s game at relegation rivals Northampton is no bigger than the following nine games as the Stags scrap for survival.
The Cobblers, beaten 3-0 at One Call Stadium in September, were adrift at the bottom and looked a hopeless case at one stage.
But boss Chris Wilder quit title-chasing Oxford to go in and try to save them, and five unbeaten games have now hauled them to within three points of safety and only five points behind the Stags.
“It is a big game, but they are all big games now,” said Cox.
“We have nine big games to come after it. Losing on Tuesday changed nothing. I have always maintained that becoming safe won’t just happen overnight.
“It is going to be such a tight run-in with only 10 points separating second from bottom to eighth. Everyone has everything to play for.
“Northampton have brought in six or seven players to bolster the squad. Among those are goalscorers, which ups the ante a bit for them. You know if you have goalscorers you are capable of winning games.
“I know some mindsets around here seem to change from game to game. But that table is going to change so many times between now and the end of the season. It’s all about consistency. Putting two or three good results together is the key.
“Everyone is biting and scratching to get points on the table as quickly as possible.
“There are a lot of big clubs in there. Look at Portsmouth. They average crowds of about 15,500 yet they are no better than us right now in any stats.”
He added: “We may see a bit of difference in the table come the end of March when we sees who makes a push and who drops into the zone. You don’t want to be in the bottom two with three games left as it would be very hard to get out of.
“The boys know what is needed. We have just got to start punishing teams and put our chances away. We need more of a cool head and to stop snatching at things.
“It’s now all about keeping a cool, calm head. We need to stay focused.
“I always prepare for the worst case scenario and we are ready for the season to go right down to the wire.”
Cox knows he will be coming up against striker Emile Sinclair on Saturday, having almost signed him in January only to be told there was no money available at the last minute.
But Cox said: “It’s happened, it’s gone and it’s over. I won’t cry over spilt milk. We know the situation with the club and what is in front of us.”
Stags will be without the injured Ritchie Sutton, though there is a chance that Darryl Westlake, who went off injured against York on Tuesday, could yet still make it.
“I think we’ve caught it well with Darryl,” he said. “There is no tear or pull, just a really tight hamstring. We will do some special sessions with him this week to try to get him right for Saturday.
“But Ritchie will be two and a half weeks as it is a pulled hamstring which is something we didn’t need right now. All we can do is get on with it.”
Stags are expected to take up to 900 fans to Sixfields which should make for a great atmosphere.
The Cobblers, who have taken 14 points from their last seven games, will welcome midfielder Ricky Ravenhill back after a one game ban.
Cox has looked back at the DVD of the 1-0 home defeat by York on Tuesday in which referee Darren Drysdale made a string of contentious decisions against Mansfield and has not changed his mind about the official’s performance.
“It left a bitter taste in people’s mouths,” he said. “I have watched the DVD a couple of times now and to say some of the decisions raised a few eyebrows is an understatement.
“There were two clear penalties we should have had. The penalty they scored was not a penalty and I don’t think their second one was a penalty either.
“But it wasn’t just about the referee. I think we could have been a bit braver in the last third and shown a bit more quality.
“We were on the front foot in the second half and looked like the only team who would go on and win it. We just needed that bit extra in the final third.”