While pleased with his best start to a season as a manager so far, Paul Cox is keeping his feet firmly on the floor as his Mansfield Town side head for fellow promoted club Newport County on Saturday (3pm).
Stags took eight points from five tough opening games back in the Football League in August and sit in ninth, just a point off the play-offs pace.
“For some reason my teams don’t tend to start seasons well and this is probably my best start yet which is pleasing,” he said. “I can give them all the accolades and pats on the back they deserve, but it’s early days yet and it’s where you finish that’s important.
“I am sure there will be a lot more twists and turns as the seasons unfolds. But the boys are hungry and starting to believe in themselves at this level of football.”
Stags began last weekend’s home 3-0 win over Dagenham and Redbridge with a 3-5-2 formation, but really came to life after the break when Cox went 4-4-2.
However, he said: “People talk a lot about formations, but I have always played a number of different formations and it’s all about the players and what they do really, not the formation.
“I went 3-5-2 recently as I thought the lads were looking for a bit of belief and that formation gave us the chance to keep clean sheets and put some points on the board.”
Stags will head up to Rodney Parade tomorrow and stay overnight for Saturday’s game against an Exiles side that did the double over them last season and have made an almost identical start to the Stags this time around, above them in eighth only on goals scored.
The biggest talking point in Mansfield’s 2-0 defeat there last season was the state of the pitch, badly cut up by rugby, but which should be in better condition this early in the campaign.
“Newport have started off quite well as well so it will be finely balanced and an intriguing game,” said Cox. “We will have to be patient and, more than anything, show the mental resilience we’ve shown in previous games.
“We are looking structured and hard to break down, though we are creating a number of chances.
“We are building the right way, but no one is singing from the rooftops just yet.
“The pitch there will be the same for both sides whatever it’s like. I want my players to adapt and overcome whatever comes our way.
“I don’t care if the pitch is bobbly or flat and has grass on it or not. It was poor there last season but Newport managed to pass the ball about on it. The main thing is we put the ball in the Newport net more than they do in ours. I don’t want to complicate the game or our mindset.”
James Jennings (ankle) and Ollie Palmer (concussion) have both missed training all week with knocks suffered during the Dagenham and Redbridge win last weekend.
“Both of them are 50-50 for Saturday and we will just have to wrap them up in cotton wool and give it until the last minute,” said Cox.