Mansfield Town will try to extend their unbeaten run to six games at resurgent Cambridge United on Saturday (3pm) with Stags boss Steve Evans already tipping the U’s for a play-off spot.
But Evans has urged his men to stay with the pace while he completes his January transformation of the team, particularly in the current tough run of three away League games out of four.
After a dire start to the campaign, Shaun Derry’s side are one point and one place outside the play-off zone and Evans said: “We know Saturday is going to be extremely tough.
“We are going down to face a team that I think will finish in the play-offs.
“They did take Leeds United apart for 60 minutes in a cup tie and I know the quality that is at Elland Road.
“So we are coming up against an opposition that’s certainly going to be up there.
“We’ve been to Notts County, we go down to Cambridge, we come home to Leyton Orient and then go away to Barnet, so there are three away games out of four.
“I know it levels itself out, but at this difficult time of the year as it gets towards the third week in January, it’s a key period in the season.
“So we need to retain that five or six point gap to the play-off places as a minimum and then see how February, March and April go.”
He added: “What I do know is that we will be much better as every week of the season goes past because we have signed players to help the group and a lot of players I have inherited are starting to stand up and produce real good performances, Rhys Bennett being a great example.
“The objective is to make sure we are getting something from most, if not every, game. That point on Saturday, as much as we are disappointed and think we’ve left two behind, could be vital come the early part of May.”
Evans felt the two dropped points in the derby at Notts County last weekend were down to players letting the occasion get to them.
“Unfortunately we played with our hearts,” he said.
“When you go into a derby situation you have to play with your heads as well. I don’t think we did that enough.
“Having said that the opposition didn’t have a shot on target in 95 minutes and we missed two clear-cut chances in the second half.
“Yoann Arquin should have scored at the far stick and Paddy Hoban should have scored with the last kick of the game. It’s a big miss when you look at it back.
“The stats from the last four games state we are doing something right in the defensive area of the pitch, though we’ve still got a long way to go.
“We rode our luck a bit in a couple of those games not to concede, so we won’t kid ourselves we’ve achieved something there.
“But every player old and new are working so hard on the training ground.
“Maybe, dare I say, drawing away from home in the past, they’d have said let’s be happy with a point on the road. But I think there were a lot of players who knew we’d come up a little bit short on Saturday.
“They knew on Saturday. There was a real quiet eeriness in the dressing room on Saturday.”