Port Vale manager Michael Brown has warned that his side face a stiff test against AFC Wimbledon this Saturday (3pm kick-off).
The Valiants are languishing in the League One relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand, having won just three of 16 league matches since losing 4-0 to the Dons in their previous meeting in mid-December.
Brown is confident of surviving the drop but, with three games in the next seven days, knows Vale need to pick up points quickly.
He said in his pre-match press conference: “We went to Wimbledon’s game, myself and [assistant manager]Ned, on Tuesday night.
“We watched a team who are extremely hard-working and have got some fantastic results this season, especially at home.
“They’ve now assured safety in the league with that result [a 3-1 win over Rochdale]and they’ll be full of good spirit. They’re very hard-working and very direct. It’ll be an interesting game.
“They defend very well as a group and they have a desire and a team work ethic that is leading them through, it’s great to see.
“Maybe some areas they lack in ability, but as a team they have done exceptionally well.”
Brown meanwhile is confident in the ability of his team to avoid relegation to League Two, but admits they must improve in certain aspects of their performance.
He added: “We need that ruthlessness about a team, being hard to beat. It’s just having that shape in and out of possession, that mentality and that extra run.
“We’ve got a group of players that are working very, very hard to get the results that we need at this football club.
“We’ve got injuries but I still think we’ve got enough to get the points that we need. We’ve got eight games and after that eighth game, we’ll find out if we’ve been good enough.
“We feel like we can do it. We know it will be hard and we understand that odds have been stacked against us with what has been happening. They are the cards we’ve been dealt.”
Vale are dealing with an injury crisis but should welcome back Remie Streete against Wimbledon after the centre-back went off injured in last Saturday’s draw with MK Dons.
That allowed for new signing André Bikey to make his debut with his first competitive appearance since December 2015.
Asked whether the club’s injury situation had improved in the past week, Brown revealed: “Not really. It’s been poor. We’re looking at that and hopefully we can improve it in the next few weeks.
“We’re hoping to have Remie back on Saturday. Hopefully that’s the case.
“André’s been great around the place. He’s lost a lot of time, he’s not played a lot of football. He did a good job [against MK Dons]after not playing for such a long time.
“We’ve got to understand the situation that he’s in, but he’s got a bit of experience and has been talking to the players. It’s good to have him.”