Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans believes returning striker Danny Rose will play a crucial role in Stags’ last nine games of the season.
And he also warned his strike force they need to produce statistics that prove they are worth keeping on when he goes looking for proven goalscorers in the summer.
Due to injuries and suspension, Rose, 23, has struggled to make a consistent impact since his summer arrival for an undisclosed fee from Bury, though he had begun to get regular games after the November arrival of Evans until another injury.
Rose twice came close with a lively late substitute’s cameo in Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Plymouth and ahead of Saturday’s visit of promotion rivals Carlisle United, Evans said: “Danny was playing every week and very much in our thoughts.
“We worked so hard to get him fit. When we got here he wasn’t fit. You don’t get match-fit by not playing matches.
“He grabbed his chance and was fantastic. Then he tweaked his hamstring and he didn’t train until last Thursday.
“We obviously have to be careful. He had two light sessions on Thursday and Friday and a 20-minute cameo on Saturday when, dare I say it, Plymouth were sitting behind the ball, so it was a bit easier for Danny than it was starting the game in the heat of the battle.
“But, over the remaining games if you ask me if Danny will play a big part – 100 per cent I believe, yes.”
Rose is competing with Matt Green, Shaq Coulthirst, Yoann Arquin and Pat Hoban for a place up front and Evans is hoping he can hit on a pairing or formation that can take them to the play-offs, having failed to score for three games before last night’s trip to Colchester.
“If I had a magic formula I’d produce it,” he said. “The bottom line is you always need to sign players that can score some goals.
“There wasn’t many out there in January when we went into the market to try to bring players in who could score a goal.
“So we have no alternative but to do that in the summer. Stats never lie at the end of the season for strikers.
“I have always said at the end of the season they get judged on statistics. Did they score enough goals to be part of what we are trying to build going forward?
“Because of the transfer window now they get security and you can’t bring others in. But, at the end of the season, if they have delivered performances and goals and assists then that’s when decision time comes for them.”
Evans continued: “Football will never change. In the words of Bill Shankley – what’s the net for son? To put the ball in it.
“If you don’t do it then you’re not going to win football matches.
“You can trade insults but you don’t need to tell players six times they should score a goal when they miss a chance.
“It’s not just the strikers. There are midfield players missing chances for fun – and centre backs from corners.
“But you’re always more worried if you’re not making chances and I thought Saturday’s performance was the best since I came here.”