Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft believes Port Vale have turned a corner ahead of Saturday’s clash at the One Call Stadium.
And he also singled out experienced Vale striker Tom Pope, curently on eight goals, as the man to stop on Saturday as Stags try to extend their unbeaten run to 14 games.
After almost going down a second time in two seasons, Vale’s fortunes now appear to be on the up and Flitcroft said: “They have consolidated their work and are very resilient now.
“They went to Lincoln and got battered 6-0. I think that was almost a watershed moment for them and they really solidified and became functional.”
On their dangerman, he said: “They’ve got Tom Pope, who I’ve worked with, and he is deadly.
“He was deadly scoring goals in League One. He’s a fantastic kid and he’s scored a hatful of goals again in League Two.
“We will have to nullify that threat for sure.”
But Stags have only lost once at home all season and go into the game full of confidence.
“We have to make sure we impose ourselves on them,” said Flitcroft.
“We have been brilliant at home this season. We have been a constant force – really consistent at home.
“So when they come on our patch we will concentrate on what we are good at.
“The belief system our boys are getting is really important.”
Stags are in the middle of a hectic 14 games in seven weeks schedule, but while results are going well, the manager is happy to see games come thick and fast.
“We have been well in the league and the cups so we just want to keep playing,” he said.
“We have got into a real rhythm playing six or seven weeks absolute non-stop Saturday/Tuesday.
“We have missed key players like Alex MacDonald and Otis Khan but the lads that have come in have done fantastically well.”
MacDonald is ruled out for Saturday while Khan remains a big doubt.
“Macca won’t play. He is building up in the gym and is now in his next phase, field-based,” said Flitcroft.
“Otis probably pushed it a little bit too much in a session on Saturday and probably just took it a little bit too far. He’s had two days downtime and Saturday might just be too soon for him.
“Then we’ll look towards the Charlton game. We really want him back in the squad. He is a game-changer.”