Steve Evans defiantly refused to accept his Mansfield Town side have missed out on the play-offs until it is mathematically impossible.
But if the dream of a top seven spot does finally die at Crawley Town on Saturday, the Stags boss has told his players he wants to finish eighth.
Evans is also hoping for some better luck with refereeing decisions after another controversial moment in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by title-chasing Portsmouth left Mansfield heading for Crawley with their fate out of their hands.
“We are a clear outsider, but as every bookmaker in the country knows, outsiders do prevail,” said Evans.
“We have to be ultra-professional, go to Crawley, win the game – which will be tough in its own right – and, if that happens, we will be looking at what’s happening elsewhere. “We cannot affect what happens at Exeter, Colchester or Stevenage. But we can affect what happens in West Sussex.
“The top seven, in my opinion, that go into Saturday’s fixtures are the top seven that will come out of those fixtures. There will be movement in that top seven but we first and foremost have to look after ourselves.”
Mansfield are 12th, two points outside the play-offs and if they win at Crawley they would need four of five other games to go in their favour.
They need Blackpool to lose at home to Leyton Orient, Carlisle to lose at Exeter, Stevenage to lose at home to Accrington, Wycombe to draw with Cambridge and Colchester to lose or draw at home to Yeovil.
“We need to go to West Sussex and produce a super performance, win the game and then look at others with interest,” said Evans.
“It is still a big match. There was a lot of disappointment here in the dressing room on Saturday and Monday. I think the players knew their efforts deserved a lot more.
“They have bounced back in today. They seem refocused again.”
Stags were rocked yet again by a referee’s decision on Saturday when Lee Swabey only yellow carded ‘last man’ Matt Clarke for his foul on Danny Rose at 0-0.
“Our performances have been magnificent. But we’ve been outdone by an inability to take chances in key matches in recent times,” said Evans. “And since the turn of the year we’ve been on the end of the most awful refereeing decisions – that’s just a fact. That’s not in dispute.
“The head of referees at the Football League is a good man with the highest integrity and he had a lot of sympathy for why Portsmouth finished with 11 players, he had a lot of sympathy why we didn’t get a penalty at Doncaster, he had a lot of sympathy over the penalty against us against Exeter.
“We don’t want sympathy. We just want people to do their jobs.”
Evans concluded: “There is a real determination here and my message to my chairman and chief executive and to all our supporters is – Steve Evans lives in a world that if I can’t finish in the top seven I must finish eighth. And if I can’t finish eighth I need to be ninth.
“I am not one of these managers that says the difference between eighth and 13th doesn’t matter. It doesn’t in the big picture. But when you live inside my head – and that’s not a nice place at times – eighth is better than ninth. But the objective is to get seventh spot.
“We will come out of West Sussex and hope our season continues.
“If it doesn’t I will be looking to meet with the chairman on Monday or Tuesday before the players are asked to assemble individually next Wednesday for us to inform them of our decisions in respect of taking them forward.”