Mansfield Town’s seven game unbeaten run will face a huge test at revitalised Port Vale tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7.45).
The relegated Valiants began the season poorly which saw them part company with Michael Brown last month as they sat 22nd in League Two.
But Neil Aspin’s return to the club he once played for has seen a change in fortunes and, after losing his first game in charge, has seen them rise to win six and draw one of their next eight.
They have won three and drawn one of their last four and Stags boss Steve Evans admitted: “It’s all down to the new manager.
“I have always had a high regard for him, both as a player and the brief dealings we had with him when he was manager at Gateshead.
“We were trying to take a player up there and were talking about maybe loaning one or two up there as well in his time there.
“Neil has an outstanding squad of players and I think everyone tipped Port Vale to be in the top 10 at the start of the season, maybe to be promoted, maybe not.
“I have always respected how tight a game it is up at the Potteries and how difficult a game it can be.”
He added: “When you see the likes of Tom Pope back up there and David Worrall, who we paid six figures for at Rotherham, you can see the quality they’ve got in the camp.
“The boy (Tyler Denton, out of Leeds, is as good as anyone – and he’s not been featuring, which shows that quality.”
Harnessing the talent of those players has been the difficult part and Evans reiterated: “The biggest factor for me is the manager. He’s gone in there and got them playing a style of football that suits the individuals they have signed.
“They are now playing with a lot of confidence as results bring that more than anything. It will be as tough a fixture as anyone has in the league tomorrow night.
“We’d have rather gone there before Neil was appointed, that’s for sure. I think managers around the league I spoke to were looking forward to playing them. No one is now – that’s testament to their results.”
Despite six points and two clean sheets from their last two games, Evans intends to freshen up his side.
“We will make some changes,” he said. “We will try to be as fresh as we can and make try to sure we are there to compete.
“There are some players that, in terms of energy, worked so hard here on Saturday, that even in training today will still be feeling the effects of it, which is normal. Some can deal with it more than others. But we will be changing good players for good players.”
Injured striker Lee Angol won’t be included, Evans saying: “He is almost there now but not for tomorrow night.”
Vale are forced into one change. Antony Kay is suspended on five bookings and Michael Tonge is likely to replace him in central midfield.
Their star man is Tom Pope, top scorer on nine, one behind Stags’ top scorer Danny Rose, who is available again tomorrow after a one-match suspension.
Vale manager Aspin said: “It will be a big test. Mansfield are on a good run of form.
“They have had a really good couple of weeks where they have picked up a couple of wins and clean sheets.
“At the start of the season they were one of the teams that everybody expected to be challenging at the top. So they will be looking to do that and it will be a good test for us.”