NEWPORT County AFC manager Justin Edinburgh has admitted for the first time that the League Two play-offs may be beyond his side this season.
The Exiles have seen their hopes of a top-seven finish hit by a run of just one win in 13 games and they've lost the last two at Mansfield Town and Morecambe.
That has left County seven points off the play-off places with two games in hand, but also only seven points above the drop zone.
And the run has led Edinburgh to reassess where his side are in terms of their long-term progression.
The focus now is on retaining their hard-earned place in the Football League first and foremost.
“As a manager I was looking at the play-offs and it may have been a step too far,” said the Exiles boss.
“We’ve got to rediscover that winning formula. That’s all we’re looking at; we’re not looking up or down.”
But with relegation-threatened Exeter City heading to Rodney Parade on Sunday, Edinburgh is convinced that his side can stop the rot sooner rather than later.
And he’s attempted to boost his players’ confidence by showing them footage of their superb start to life in League Two, including the 2-0 win at Exeter in September.
“The effort and the commitment of the players is there but the results haven’t and we’ve got to turn that round,” said Edinburgh.
“We’re on a real difficult run right now. We’re fully aware of that and we know we need to do something about it very quickly.
“But we’ve got to remain positive because we have been competitive even in the games we’ve lost.
“We’ve sat down with the players this week and shown them a lot of footage from early in the season, trying to put that psychological twist on it.
“We’re trying everything we can and I’m confident that we will turn it around but we have to do less talking and more doing.
“It’s a big test and I’m learning more about myself as a manager from this run than I would have at the start of the season,” he added.
“This will make us stronger, the players will learn from it as well and it will stand us in good stead.”
Edinburgh insists that morale in the camp is high despite Tuesday’s 4-1 defeat at Morecambe and that was boosted by a trip to the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.
“Honesty and trust is key and there were open and frank discussions amongst the players after Tuesday,” said the manager.
“There is great togetherness here. If we’re going to do anything it is as a collective and that’s myself, my staff, the players and supporters.”
Defender Ismail Yakubu (thigh) should be fit to face the Grecians but Ryan Burge (ear infection) and Andy Sandell (hamstring) are doubts.