As Mansfield Town prepare to head to bottom club Hartlepool United on Saturday, boss Adam Murray once again reiterated his belief that the League Two relegation battle will go down to the wire.
Stags maintained an eight-point gap to the drop zone with Tuesday night’s 2-1 home win over AFC Wimbledon, which was vital as Harlepool, Tranmere and Carlisle below them all won away from home.
We know what we’ve got to do and that’s take care of our own business
The Stags probably only need to win two of their last nine games to be safe, but Murray will take nothing for granted.
“I have said all along I think will all go down to the last game and nothing has changed,” he said.
“After Tuesday we are fifth in the form table and the only teams above us are teams in the play-offs. That speaks volumes about the journey we’ve been on.
“But we have got to be realistic about where we are. We all know where we want to go and it would be brilliant if you could just click your fingers and be there.
“Tuesday sucked a couple more clubs into the fight so it’s going to be entertaining. But we know what we’ve got to do and that’s take care of our own business.”
Hartlepool, who looked adrift and doomed at one stage, have just won two away games on the bounce to close that gap to four points and Murray said: “Fair play to them. They have kicked in and got a couple of good back-to-back results.
“Their performance was really solid against Oxford. We go there on good form with confidence and they are they are the same, so I am sure it will make for an entertaining game.”
Stags’ match-winner on Tuesday was Rakish Bingham, who netted three minutes from time after coming on as a substitute.
He enjoyed a loan spell at Hartlepool earlier in the season and will be desperately hoping he has earned himself a start on Saturday. However, Murray said: “He has done well when he’s come on. But I will pick the team based on three months and not on 15 minutes of a game. We will just have to see what fit bodies we’ve got. We have a lot of tired limbs.
“Also Rakish picked up a knock when he came on. He is having treatment on that so we will have to see how he recovers.”
Murray was delighted with the way his side closed out the win over Wimbledon and feels it showed how his squad is learning.
“I am full of beans,” he said. “It was a big three points. I had a good day yesterday recapping it and spent part of the day studying Hartlepool. I feel full energised and ready to go.
“The best part of the night was the final whistle. We started really well, set the tempo of the game, and should have been ahead by half-time.
“But in the second half we let them back in it halfway through and they had couple of chances which, fortunately for us, they didn’t take. Then we showed our character and spirit we are building in the group.
“I was pleased how we put them on the back foot for the last 15 minutes and how we managed that last 10-15 minutes. It was very professional.”
He added: “You have to have a strong mindset. Instead of being 1-0 or 2-1 up and going onto the back foot and inviting pressure, we saw the game out well. It’s whatever it takes to get three points on the board. It’s not about entertaining and going for another goal. It’s about being professional and not being gung ho.
“If you stick everything in the box, their keeper could claim and pump a long ball downfield where your centre half falls over, the centre forward scores, and it’s 2-2.
“Bury did it excellently on Saturday. With 15 minutes to go they headed for the corners and put the tents up. This is football and it’s nothing new. That’s happened over a million years and I can’t see it changing.
“We need a balance between entertainment and being effective and winning games. We are starting to understand that now. We have a young squad and probably showed a bit of naivety in the second half. We came under some pressure and we rocked a bit. It’s part of our learning curve and when we had to stand up tall and go again we did, so all credit to them.”