Match preview: Relaxed Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox ready to go on attack at Macc
IT IS easy to cast the eye back to games this season where, post match, there has been a simmering feeling of discontent.
Back at Grimsby on the August Bank Holiday Monday, after a 4-1 defeat, Cox was fuming.
At Cambridge United, after a defeat of the same scoreline, the frustration was obvious in the manager.
The biggest question was how was this happening?
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A team so solid last season as they finished third in the Blue Square Premier was suddenly folding like a pack of cards when the heat was on.
As it kept happening following a summer of rebuilding his squad, Cox took action and stripped his squad back down to just over 20 players involved in first-team training.
Five games on, all without defeat, and the manager cuts a different figure as he speaks to the press after matches.
A draw with Luton on Sunday was a solid point but it could easily have been a victory as Stags put in another good performance.
But he wasn't upset by a point, he was just happy that under a big test, the new-found togetherness saw his side fightback.
The dressing room is getting back to what it was last season and, as they head to Macclesfield for their re-arranged game tonight, he hopes they can take another step in the right direction.
Cox said: "The team at the moment, we are getting that spirit and desire back which we had last season.
"There is a honesty with this bunch now and they come in the dressing room and we know we can perform and get consistent results.
"Over the last five games nobody can question our desire. What we are doing is looking like a cohesive unit and there is a hunger and desire there and the most impotant thing is that togetherness.
"The boys are running for each other, fighting for each other and when that starts happening in a group of players, it is a very hard formula to break down.
"There is a lot more to come from us. We are not shouting from the rooftops as we did not win against Luton but you can just feel there is something in us at the moment – a willingness to do all the horrible stuff.
"We just need that consistent end product."
Matt Green, last season's 30-goal top scorer, came off the bench to score the late equaliser for Mansfield – his first strike in ten weeks.
He might have to settle for the bench again this evening, alongside this season's top marksman Jake Speight, who has eight goals.
Ben Hutchinson and Nick Wright have taken their chance in recent games with Cox reluctant to make unforced changes.
But he knows the pair will soon be terrifying defences – whether that be off the bench or from the start.
The Stags boss said: "Speighty has come on and looked sharp, Greeny came on and looked sharp and that is a big positive.
"With Greeny it was a scenario where the harder he tried, the tougher it got. I maintained faith in him and we have two potential 25 goals a season strikers, with him and Speight, and what we need now is both to start hitting that bit of form.
"Wrighty has done well and Hutch has been playing out of his skin so I have to give them credit.
"We are looking to unleash them two at some point and if we can start scoring consistently, we are looking solid, so we will get consistent results.
"We are settling into a system now and we have a nice system that suits us. I have had a chat with Greeny and Speight and they are champing at the bit to get back in there.
"Greeny I have had to put my arm round his shoulder and love him a bit.
"At some point we will let them off their leash and when we do, I hope we score the goals."
But Cox believes they can build on that solid point against Luton, when they took the lead through Hutchinson before going behind until Green's late equaliser.
"It was nice for Greeny to get that monkey off his back," said Cox. "I actually thought we were going to score more goals at the end.
"We had to throw caution to the wind and ended up with three strikers.
"I thought we defended well, there were some good individual performances and more importantly, a good team performance. I thought the lads were unlucky not to get the three points.
"Shane (Redmond) is disappointed with the first goal but saying that, it is a scenario where he is getting his confidence back and getting a run of games in goal. It happens.
"I am not going to dig anybody out but the group win and lose together and there is something growing in the dressing room and that is a positive for me."