As Mansfield Town skipper Nicky Hunt braced himself for a busy week with many miles to travel, he admitted he felt the squad was still only playing at 70 per cent of what they capable of.
After three successive wins, the Stags are now in fourth place ahead of a home clash with in-form Bristol Rovers followed by two long road trips to Yeovil and Portsmouth – all inside eight days.
“It always takes three or four games at the start of the season to get into your stride,” said Hunt.
“So I think we are only playing at 70 per cent at the minute. Once we get to 90 or 100 per cent you’ll see another gear change from us.
“After three wins, it is what it is – it’s nine points on the board. We are not getting carried away with ourselves, we have a massive week coming up to really kick on and cement ourselves in the top six.
“It’s hundreds, maybe a thousand miles there and back, but that’s part and parcel of the league you play in and players are prepared for that and we will go and show our best in every game we play.
“We’ve got to keep our standards high, which we’ve set from pre-season. We have got a really fit squad with lots of fit lads and we’ll obviously do what we can in the games and hopefully get those points on the board.”
Hunt admitted he had been impressed with opponents Bristol Rovers’ quick return from the oblivion of the Conference.
“The Conference is always a hard league to get out of, I know Mansfield did it a few years ago, and Bristol have been doing well,” he said.
“We don’t take any game too lightly and we might need to tweak our team and maybe make a personal change here and there on Saturday. We’ll have to wait and see.
“Hopefully we can get the three points,but they are no mugs. They are good for this league and they’ve been in this league a long time.”
Then quickly follows the long hauls to Yeovil and Portsmouth.
“Portsmouth have pumped a lot of money in and Yeovil have just come down - it’s never easy,” said Hunt.
“Maybe if Yeovil had kept their better players they wouldn’t be in the position they are in. No game is easy and they are going to come out firing and wanting to win. They need to win to get up the table.
“It’s the same with Portsmouth. They are going to need to continue their good form, but we are prepared for every single team we play. We do everything right and there are no excuses.”
Stags have gone three games unchanged for the three wins, but Hunt said no one took their place for granted.
“It’s keep on your toes time,” he said. “You get the clean sheet, you usually play in the next game and you play well when winning.
“The manager doesn’t like to tinker with the team too much, though it may be with Bristol Rovers this weekend he may have to tweak a few things.
“He’s got his own philosophy and we are all 100 per cent behind it.
“He leaves no stone unturned. It’s great for us as we know what we need to do, who we’re picking up at set pieces, what the corners are for the opposition, he goes into great detail about that. We start that Mondays.
“We watch a video of the previous game, then we start cracking on with the team we are playing on the Saturday. It’s drilled into us so there are no excuses really on a Saturday.
“It’s up there (Murray’s preparation). I’ve been at a few clubs where the managers take it to the extreme and it’s great as you’ve got all the information, sometimes too much information, but the way the manager’s doing it at the minute, I think it’s bob on.”
Hunt recently served a one-game suspension for the visit of leaders Plymouth but, after the sides drew 0-0, he was straight back into the team in place of his deputy Lee Collins.
“It was a massive game I missed, Plymouth here – a top of the table clash, so to speak,” said Hunt.
“You always want to play in the big games. But in this league every game is a big game and anyone can beat anyone on the day.
“I am not a good spectator at the best of times so it was hard for me to watch. But the lads got a clean sheet, they got a point, and luckily for me the gaffer put me straight back in and we’ve gone on this winning streak.”
On Collins, he added: “He is a vastly experienced player and great to have around the squad. We have a lot of able bodies to come in if someone gets suspended or injured. It’s not a big squad, but we have got good depth.”
Hunt has had his share of yellow cards already, but the veteran right back has also taken some almighty kicks in recent weeks.
“I think that’s part and parcel of my game,” he smiled. “I think I wind people up and it gets to them. It’s never nice to be tackled or elbowed in the face or whatever, but you get on with it, pick yourself up and go again next game.
“As long as the team is winning, I am playing well and the team is playing well, that’s all I am bothered about.
“I am getting a bit older now and all the young whipper-snappers I’m playing against, it’s hard to catch them on the wing, but for me it’s just great to be playing football week in, week out and hopefully it’s like this until the end of the season.”
Summer signing Hunt is very proud to lead the side out.
“It’s a great honour for me to be captain at this club, any club really, it brings a lot of added extra impetus with your game,” he said. “Long may it continue in my eyes.
“We enjoy coming in every day training. All the lads are buzzing. It’s great to be around a football club that is doing so well and a town that is buzzing off us really.”
Despite his fine displays at right back, Hunt has been eclipsed in the last couple of weeks by two stunning volleyed goals by left back Mal Benning.
Said Hunt: “He’s two goals and I’m zero goals, so I’m two behind him, but as you can see in his interviews, he is a really level-headed guy.
“It’s not about scoring goals, it’s about keeping clean sheets. That’s what we get paid for. And we’ve had quite a few now.
“In the games it’s great for us to just be defenders as defenders. Obviously he’s got an unbelievable left foot, that’s two goal of the season contenders there, and hopefully he can get a few more.”
Hunt said he was surprised to see the new-look side do well so soon.
“I am a little bit surprised as we had 13 new players to start the season and sometimes it takes you half a season to start gelling, but we have hit the ground running and I just hope we can continue that as it is a massive week with three games,” he said.
“That’s never easy, but I think we have the squad and personnel to come in and get the nine points we want.”
Boss Adam Murray said this week he felt his side’s achievements so far were going under the radar nationally and his players were not getting the recognition they deserved.
But Hunt said: “It’s perfect for me. The more press you get in the papers, the more pressure it puts on players, especially the younger players we’ve got – the pressure to perform.
“For me it’s great. I’d rather go through my life without being in the paper. Under the radar is great for me as I am that type of person.”