Positive Cox has reshaped Mansfield Town squad – now he wants unbeaten run
FOR a manager whose side have won just once in seven league games and were held by bottom side Nuneaton in midweek, Paul Cox emerged looking and sounding rather upbeat.
Instead of being full of frustration and disbelief, trying to put his finger on what was required to put things right, he was just desperate to get to tomorrow's game with Southport.
And it wasn't just the 90-minute performance of dominance, creating endless chances, that had put Cox in a positive mood as he started to look with optimism about what could be waiting around the corner.
It did not produce the three points it merited but the togetherness and belief in the 1-1 showing on Tuesday night, as well as the work ethic and solidarity, left Cox feeling vindicated in his earlier decision to trim his squad, to inform some senior players that their futures lie elsewhere.
It was not easy with some no longer training with the first team, but Cox felt the time had come – after such an up-and-down start to the campaign – to get it sorted.
The manager admits he made a mistake in putting together such a big squad in the summer following last season's third-placed finish.
And now he wants to go back to what has served him so well during his managerial career – a tight-knit group all buying into the same vision.
The football might not always be pretty but it helped them go on a superb run at the end of last season, winning 13 and drawing one of their last 15 games.
By taking the decision to act now, with 30 games remaining and 90 points to play for, Cox hopes in the near future the Stags can put together a similar run.
"There is a lot happening behind the scenes, we are stripping the squad back and we now have a nice, tight-knit group training together and it has shown in our performances," said Cox.
"There is a spring in there now and it looks like it is coming.
"The majority of my sides have been built on team ethic and it has been tough on one or two but I have had to make tough decisions and that showed in the second half against Slough and from the first to the last minute against Nuneaton.
"I took on a big squad this year and that is probably down to me making a mistake, so I have had to make some big decisions and I have upset one or two people.
"I am not afraid to do that and players have been told.
"I need to keep this core together and if needs be, I will freshen it up with players who have desire and want to win for this football club."
The Stags, who are 14th, have won just once on the road in the league and shipped 22 goals – losing 4-1 at Gateshead, Grimsby and Cambridge this season.
"If it was happening once every blue moon, you don't mind," added Cox. "But it was happening in games, in training and the group was split.
"I wanted to narrow it down to a group that I know is hungry and want to play here and be here for the right reasons and be successful. That is what I am all about. We are getting there.
"We did not win at Nuneaton so we are not going overboard. It was the level of performance that leaves me in no doubt we have something to build on.
"We build that into the Southport game and take it from there."
Although Cox was impressed with the performance, a lack of goals in the 1-1 draw meant Mansfield had to settle for a draw in midweek.
That followed drawing a blank in the 0-0 scoreline with Slough in the FA Cup and not netting at Dartford.
Top scorer Jake Speight is set to return tomorrow to face Southport at the One Call Stadium and Cox hopes the chances can be turned into goals.
"We need to tidy things up and get better but I was just pleased with the way the boys applied themselves and their desire against Nuneaton," he said. "I thought they were excellent and a credit to Mansfield Town.
"You make your own luck and what we did in midweek and in the second half on Saturday was put a level of performance in that was a big improvement. When you look at our performances away at Dartford and at Cambridge, they warranted criticism.
"But the other night for 90 minutes the lads worked extremely hard with and without the ball and some of the football we played was excellent.
"Now we need to finish some of the chances we create."