Adam Murray has set his Mansfield Town side a target of ending the season with the club’s best League finish for 12 years to reward the loyalty of their supporters ahead of Saturday’s tough game at Carlisle United.
Stags’ play-off hopes look all but dead with only six games left to make up the eight-point gap and Murray said: “We have probably put ourselves in that position where it’s six games of pride now more than anything. But we want to finish our season on a high for the fans.
“Last Saturday they stuck with us. They were fantastic, trying to suck the ball into the net for us. Even after the game the atmosphere was really good from them and they appreciated the work the boys had put in.
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“It’s been one of those seasons that, because of our start, expectations went so high. But we are coming out of it in a disappointed frame of mind, and we shouldn’t be.
“The aim of the group now is to get to 60 points. You never know what will happen. We are eight points off it still.
“We want to give fans something to go into the summer with to give more hope for next season and continue the hope we’ve had for the majority of the season when, for seven months, we didn’t come out of the top 10. No one expected that, but we’ve dried up a bit of late.”
The Stags are now without a win in seven and this weekend will try to stop former boss Keith Curle edging his side into the play-offs spots, currently sitting one point short.
But, with so many good displays in that seven games, Murray feels his side are on the verge of giving someone a hiding.
“If we keep playing like this we know results will come,” he said.
“I went into the dressing room on Monday thinking I am going to have to pick this group up now as they will be thinking what more do we need to do?
“But they came back at me and we are in a great frame of mind at the minute. “We know we are playing well and it’s only a matter of time before we give someone a right spanking.
“With the last two games, we know we should be two points off the play-offs. It gives you a sinking feeling in your stomach.
“60 points is what we want as quick as we can and we will go from there. We want that to start on Saturday.”
On the Cumbrians, he added: “I think Carlisle are a very, very good side and probably should be in the play-offs if I am being honest. I have watched them a few times.
“It’s another old manager of mine and he’s done a fantastic job up there. I think they were in the same position as us last year in that they were scrambling for their lives and have had a big turn-around in players.
“They have a big squad with some very good players in it, so there is a lot of choice there. They rotate the team a lot and rotate the shape a lot.
“When you have a group of players like that you can do that, so it does give you options that we’d like at the minute.”
Stags led at Brunton Park last season through a Vadaine Oliver goal only to lose to two late goals, lose Matty Blair with a serious injury, and drop into the relegation places.
“We are expecting a tough test,” said Murray. “It was a bad time when we went there last year so we are going up there, strange to say it, in a lot better place.
“We want to right the wrongs of last year’s visit there. We want to go there and put points on the board, more for the team’s belief than anything.
“The lads need to see that these performances we are putting in actually do put points on the board.
“It’s very frustrating. I think the reaction of the fans last week after the Hartlepool game showed their appreciation for what we tried to do up there.
“We had a right go and it was a game that perfectly summed up the period we are in. We couldn’t have done much more to win the game, but shot ourselves in the foot.
“It was a very good performance. I’d probably go as far as to say it was one of our best away performances this season - the amount of shots we had, the amount of shots on target, the possession we had, the chances we created.
“But you can’t do it with 10 men. That the problem we’ve found over the last two games.
“You look at the last three goals we’ve conceded and they’ve all been penalties. We can’t keep getting people sent off and expect to win football matches.”
He added: “You look over the last seven games and you’re talking missed opportunities with chances created and not taking them, then Newport and Yeovil last minute goals conceded when the games should have been out of sight, Wycombe a cross that has gone in, Portsmouth an own goal, Northampton the sending-off and a penalty and then Saturday at Hartlepool, you couldn’t write the script at the minute.
“But, strange as it seems, the camp is really positive as we know someone is millimetres away from getting an absolute smashing.
“If it was bad performances and the camp was down or the lads weren’t fighting for the cause and we weren’t playing well, it would be a different story. But we are wondering what we have to do to win a game at the minute.”
Stags are still seven points short of the new minimum 60-point target and Murray said:“Our season is not over in terms of what we want to achieve.
“We know we’ve had a really tough run of late, but we are still sitting in a very respectable place from where we’ve come from and who we are.
“We are probably at the minute where we deserve to be. We are probably where this squad is at.
“Mid-table at the minute probably suits the position the group is in. We will be so much better for a year together and so much better for a few additions in the summer and what the players have come through this season. We are probably where we deserve to be.”
With games running out, centre half Krystian Pearce starting a three game ban and midfielder Chris Clements out for the season, Murray said he may now take the opportunity to blood one or two youngsters.
He said: “To get 60 points would be a great achievement for this group, and for myself to be honest if I am being selfish.
“It would be our highest League finish in 12 years, I’d be really proud of that. So that’s our aim now. We will push on from there.
“At the same time I have half an eye on next season now in terms of the way we are going to go about it, where we need to improve, and what was missing this season. It is only little bits we need to add and to get better at.
“That might mean bringing a few of the kids in and having a look at them. We are down to 17/18 players now.
“If we have to bring in a couple from the youth team, who are flying, then so be it.
“Cain Smith and Zayn Hakeem are two who have been with us all season. “They are two boys who are doing really well, but there are a number in that team the fans haven’t seen yet who could come in and get some experience.”
At Carlisle Murray will welcome striker Adi Yussuf back into the squad after his five game ban, while midfielder Jamie McGuire is back from a one game suspension.