By Tony Leighton
Mansfield Town's shot-shy players will be handed a 'get ruthless' gee-up from manager Paul Cox before kicking off their November fixtures at Southend United after a winless October saw them slide from third to 11th in Sky Bet League 2.
The Stags were flying high when an eight-match unbeaten run culminated in a shock 1-0 win at the then leaders Chesterfield, their big local rivals and a prize scalp that was taken joyously by everyone involved with the Field Mill club.
That was their last game in September, since when they have taken just three points from five league outings. So quickly getting back to winning ways, preferably at 13th in the table Southend, is crucial to Cox's ambitions for Town.
"The aim is to stay in the pack at the top end of the table," football-league.co.uk was told by the manager, who last season led the Stags to promotion as Conference champions, ending their five-year absence from The Football League.
"We've had a blip in terms of results," he added, "but we've only lost three league games all season and it's the draws that have been frustrating us. We've had too many one-pointers that should have been wins with the chances we've created.
"There's been a bit of anxiety in the final third, but we've got to be more ruthless in and around the penalty area and that's what I'll be looking for at Southend. They've got a half-decent home record, but we'll be going there aiming to win."
In order to boost his side's scoring potential, Cox has this week taken 18-year-old Stoke City striker James Alabi on a month's loan and hopes the youngster will provide the goals that can lift the mis-firing Stags back up the table.
"If we address the goalscoring situation correctly we will start winning games again," said Cox. "James has hit a lot of goals at Under-21 and reserve levels for Stoke and so hopefully he can carry on doing that for us.
"I've seen him play and he's got pace and power, he works in behind defenders and he's a difficult player to mark. He will undoubtedly stiffen the competition for places among the strikers and that should sharpen everyone up."
Ending the winless streak will be Mansfield's principle aim at Southend, but despite sliding eight places down the table in the last month they are still only two points below the Play-Off places and just five points off top spot.
Cox's team have thus negotiated their return to The League pretty well, though eyebrows were raised in some quarters when club chairman John Radford said a couple of weeks ago that a second successive promotion was his aim.
"We've acclimatised more quickly than a lot of people thought we would," said 41-year-old Cox, who is in his third season in charge at Field Mill, "but as to going for promotion we'll assess where we are at Christmas time.
"I've got a good relationship with the chairman, he's a good man and I want to be working for an ambitious chairman. What we're trying to create here is a good future for the club, to make Mansfield Town into a bigger club."
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