Max Porter insists Newport County players have everything to play for with their futures on the line in the remaining two games of the campaign.
The Exiles are guaranteed to be in League Two next season with their mark of 55 points comfortably enough to keep them free of the relegation zone, the second spot now seemingly a fate Northampton, Wycombe and Bristol Rovers will fight to avoid.
County have been handed a tough run-in with fourth-placed Burton’s visit on Monday in a 1-1 draw followed by a trip to seventh-placed York and finally the visit of Rochdale, likely to be promoted by the time they enter Monmouthshire.
With only pride seemingly at stake, there is a sense that it is ‘job done’ for the campaign but Porter believes the Exiles must fight to finish strongly after a dismal 2014.
The Exiles were fourth on Boxing Day but have slid down the division ever since.
“You’ve got a squad of players who have had a bad second half of the season, inconsistent, compared to the first and we are all trying to prove to the manager that we deserve to be here next season.
“Next year we want to try and be more consistent throughout the duration of the campaign. Firstly we would re-establish ourselves as a League Two team, but we are all ambitious here.
“It isn’t like the Conference. Seven teams will fight for promotion, three automatically and four in the play-offs and if you have a good season, you will have a chance at promotion. We aimed for it this year and would definitely aim for it next year, we must learn from this season.
“At the start we’d have bitten your hand off to be offered this points tally, but we put ourselves in a position and couldn’t capitalise.
“Next season we want to be in a position where with ten games to go, we are right in there.”
Porter believes the Exiles can take heart from their 2012 FA Trophy final opponents York, who they meet on Saturday.
York were nearly relegated last season, their first back in the Football League, but are now contending promotion under former Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington.
“We take encouragement from a lot of this season, including our performances against the top sides,” he said.
“We can take heart from what York have done in comparison to last season.
“But I also look at it with maybe a lot more perspective from when I first came here,” he said.
“When I joined Newport we were battling relegation to the Conference South and if someone then had said ‘in two years you’ll be pretty comfortably in League Two’ I’d have been over the moon.
“But standards change and we’ve set higher standards which is why our 2014 has been so disappointing and why we are looking forward to starting fresh next season.”
Porter also spoke candidly and refreshingly about the problems with the Rodney Parade pitch.
“We don’t want to use the pitch for excuses, it will be sorted in the summer and that’ll be that excuse taken away, which is good, because as footballers we do look for excuses,” he admitted.
“I suppose we can be like fans, we blame the referees and we did on Saturday, we didn’t win the game and we’ve got to take a bit more responsibility for that.
“We’ve got players like Robbie Willmott and Christian Jolley who want to run at players and on half the pitch they can’t and that is difficult for us, but hopefully it’ll get sorted next season and come out of the equation.”