'Grimsby Town's winless run not down to Wembley', says Paul Hurst
PAUL Hurst insists making it to Wembley hasn't derailed Grimsby Town's automatic promotion hopes.
Since booking their place in the FA Trophy final against Wrexham, the Mariners have taken six points from their five Conference matches.
After being two points and two places above Mansfield following that semi-final at Dartford less than a month ago, Town are now ten points and four places below the table-topping Stags.
Hurst concedes that some may see a correlation between his side's march to Wembley and their worst league run of the campaign, but he believes performances haven't supported that theory.
He told the Telegraph: "We've spoken about it and said 'has anything detracted from the players because of Wembley?'
"You'll only honestly get that answer from the players and I still think they would say no.
"I don't think anything massively would have detracted from their performances.
"With Forest Green, we went there and did a good, professional job and came away with the victory, so nothing's said.
"We then moved on to Kidderminster for a big game, played okay and I don't think anything in that performance suggested the players were looking elsewhere.
"We went to Mansfield, were the better side in the first half, and over the 90 minutes feel we deserved at least a point, if not all three. So you can't question that.
"Then we were left with the Cambridge game on Saturday, and I think we played okay again.
"The only thing that we have said is 'was it just there subconsciously in the back of their minds?'
"Once the game starts it's really difficult to say that their minds are on Wembley.
"I didn't see anybody pull out of any tackles and I thought physically we were good on Saturday. There were more of their players limping around the pitch than there were ours."
Tonight's trip to struggling Nuneaton Town gives the Mariners players a chance to stop the slide – and cement their places in the squad for Sunday's showpiece.
"Our players are looking forward to tonight's game and Sunday is in the background," added Hurst.
"As Rob (Scott) said at the weekend, as much as we're looking forward to Wembley, it will be nice to get it out of the way.
"We can't help certain things that come up – travel arrangements, keeping the players informed of when we're leaving, and so on.
"So it keeps popping, but the league has always been the big focus.
"We certainly don't have to use Wembley as a carrot for the players – they know it's there.
"They know it's their last chance tonight before Wembley to put in a really good performance. The ones that have been in on a regular basis can say 'yeah, that's me, I'm in'.
"Or one of the others could get an opportunity and say 'I'm going to be the best player on the pitch tonight – leave me out for Sunday if you dare'.
Nuneaton battled to a priceless 1-0 victory over Lincoln City at the weekend, dragging the Imps further into the relegation dogfight.
And Hurst appreciates their hosts will be targeting another Lincolnshire scalp at the Triton Showers Community Arena.
He added: "We've got a very important game tonight against a team that have a pretty good home record.
"They're very difficult to beat and there don't seem to be many goals in the games they play. That's credit to how they set-up and how hard they work as a team.
"They certainly haven't got any 'big-time Charlies'. They work extremely hard for each other and the reports that we've had suggest that they probably deserved to win their game against Lincoln.
"If we work harder than Nuneaton, we feel our luck will change.
"For them, getting promoted last year was all about games like tonight – playing against one of the biggest clubs in this league and pitting themselves against us. They're fighting for every point they can get.
"Sunday could be a big springboard for us. It might be that we get a victory, lift the trophy, everyone is absolutely flying and we can kick on from there.
"It might go the other way, but first of all we need to take three points at Nuneaton and then hopefully take pleasure at some of our rivals dropping them."