JOHN Coleman knows there is a bigger prize waiting for Accrington Stanley than an FA Cup fourth round place.
The Reds lost 2-1 to Second Division Colchester in the third round replay and he admitted he felt "deflated" after the game on Tuesday night. However, he knows he has to raise his side and should have no problem for the tough trip to promotion chasing Shrewsbury on Saturday.
And while the cup games have been huge, he insists the Conference matches are all cup matches now if the Reds are to reach the play-offs.
"We need to raise our game for every match now - like we did in all the cup games against the Football League sides," said the boss. "The ultimate prize is far greater than an FA Cup fourth round with a place in the league. I have to hammer that home now. We have to pick ourselves up.
"We want the play-offs and that has always been the main aim. And we couldn't have wanted a better game on Saturday than Shrewsbury. I am made up that it's them as there will be around 4,000 fans and we are used to playing on a big stage now. And since they beat us 1-0 in August, I think we have got better while they have lost their way a little bit. Hopefully we can put on a good show."
The Shrews have the dangerous strikeforce of Colin Cramb and Luke Rodgers - the Stanley defenders rated them highly when they played them last time. But the Reds are confident they can beat the Shrews - especially with Paul Mullin 's recent goal-scoring exploits with five goals in the last three games.
The striker has got 18 goals this season in the league and the FA Cup and FA Trophy. And he insists that his three from the Lancashire FA Marsden Trophy should be included in his official tally.
"I have got 21 goals so far - those three count. Coley has told me to count every goal no matter what so I have passed the 20-goal mark now!" said the hitman.
The boss, however, does still have injury problems for tomorrow's clash at Gay Meadow. Andy Gouck is still a week away with his gashed knee while Gordon Armstrong's gash on his shin is worse than expected. But the boss was relieved to see Andy Procter get through the match at Colchester despite struggling with ankle ligament trouble.
"He did well although he was slipping all over in the first 20 minutes - I don't know what studs he had in!"
Coleman, though, was left to reflect on what might have been against the Second Division side, after the goalless first match.
"Over the two games, I think we were the better team. I felt we should have had a penalty when Lutel James was fouled in the replay but some decisions go for you, some don't - against Huddersfield they had a man sent off when the shouldn't have.
"But you can't moan about referees - you have to take them out of the equation. If we had taken our chances we would have gone through. I am proud of the players."
- JOHN Coleman has still not given up hope on the league defender and striker he has been tracking. Now the FA Cup campaign is over, Coleman will speak to the Third Division striker's manager. "There's nothing at the moment but it is just a case of watch this space," he said.