Steady and continuous progression – small steps – has been the theme since the arrival of Keith Millen at the end of October, and with that path in mind he spoke this week about what he wants to see next form his group.
“I want us to continue to keep clean sheets, because that gives you the chance to win football matches,” he said. “I want to see us get better when we have the ball, and that comes with confidence and belief. There has been improvement in that area, but I want more.
“And we definitely need more end product, so can we start to finish more of the good chances we’ve created. The games we’ve won have been close, and on Tuesday we didn’t create many chances but luckily we took one of them.
“That can ultimately be the difference if games are tight. I want to ‘up’ all of the numbers in terms of creating more chances and turning more of them into goals.”
“I’ve been really pleased with how the group have responded,” he added. “The only time I said I was concerned was after Northampton, my first game. Since then I’ve been really pleased with them as a dressing room.
“Northampton worried me but then I’d only had two days with the group. Since then they’ve really picked up. They were a happy group on Thursday, especially when I said they were going down the gym and in the swimming pool. I think that made their day.
“They know we’re trying to do things right to try and help them, and when you win football matches the confidence, there’s more of a buzz around the changing room.
“I’ve detected a lift as the weeks have gone by, even when we haven’t won. I still felt there was a belief. The manner of the defeats has a big impact for me.
“You can play really well, do everything right and still lose. There’s a way of losing. The way we lost to Northampton didn’t please me. The ones we’ve lost since, there were still positives to take – the spirit, work rate, the running stats are fantastic. They’re hitting new levels.
“That comes with belief, with fitness, with confidence. I think, hopefully, the more confidence they get, you might lose a game, but it shouldn’t dent confidence too much. We then just have to pick up the pieces and try and improve them.”
“I haven’t mentioned the league table to the players at all since I’ve been here, honestly,” he continued. “There are no concerns from me at the moment, apart from my only concern being that we have to win football matches.
“If we win enough we’ll be fine in the league, but there’s no reason to even think about that for Saturday. This weekend is a focus on the FA Cup, and once that one is done we know we have some big league games coming up.
“Mansfield are next away, and that’s winnable, as is every game in this league. We do say it a lot, but we focus on each game when it’s the next one, because that’s what this business is all about.”