OXFORD United may be playing catch-up on the top seven for the first time this season, but Gary Waddock does not believe his side are outsiders to make the Sky Bet League Two play-offs.
With Fleetwood and Burton well clear and in pursuit of automatic promotion, it leaves two places up for grabs.
Barring a flawless finish from Dagenham & Redbridge, those will be filled from four hopefuls.
While Southend and York are in the box seats, the other pair – Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle – meet at Home Park tomorrow.
After staying among the leading pack all the way from August until last weekend, the U’s suddenly find themselves out in the cold.
While the gap is only a point, the form book tells a different story and suggests an uphill struggle to haul themselves out of a rut which threatens to undermine a season’s hard graft.
Waddock did not hold back in his criticism of United after last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Fleetwood Town, but rejected any talk of the odds being against them.
“I don’t look at it that way, why should we?” the head coach said.
“I look at it as going to Plymouth and trying to get a positive result.
“Underdogs or favourites doesn’t really come into it. It’s a case of going there and being really positive, playing without fear and going out there to enjoy yourself, because that’s what you’ve got to do.
“We have a good group of players, so I don’t see us as underdogs, at all.
“We are going up against a very good team, but we’re a good side as well, so it should be a decent game.”
Tomorrow will mark three weeks since the former Wycombe and Aldershot boss was unveiled as Chris Wilder’s replacement.
He is still looking for not just a maiden win, but a first goal after three successive failures – two runs Waddock wants to break tomorrow.
“I didn’t think I’d be sitting here going into the fourth game waiting for the first goal,” he said.
“Players have to take responsibility for that and we’ve worked on attacking play, so hopefully that will come.”
An Oxfordshire Senior Cup defeat at Kidlington was hardly in the script either, but despite the inauspicious start, Waddock remains genuinely upbeat.
“I believe in the players, there’s no question of that, now they possibly have to start believing in themselves.”