Neal Ardley issued a rallying cry ahead of the League Two run-in, urging his Notts County players to fight for their lives in the final seven games after a 1-0 loss to Exeter.
Nicky Law’s 93rd-minute strike was a sucker-punch to County’s survival hopes and they remain bottom of the table, three points off Yeovil.
Exeter played for 70 minutes with ten men following a red card to Ryan Bowman but County still created few clear-cut chances and Ardley insists it is now sink or swim in their bid to survive.
“We’re all lower than snakes’ bellies particularly after that late goal,” he said.
“We’re in control of how much of a body blow it is – we either turn up and we fight for our lives and we come in and we train hard and we do everything we can to put it right, or we feel sorry for ourselves.
“I’ve just told them in there I know which one I’m going to do and I’ll know which players during the week are following my lead. There’s seven games to go, we need to fight for our lives.
“It’s hard to create clear-cut chances when you’ve got 10 men camped in and sat in and credit to Exeter, they did it great.
“They defended for their lives. You need that break, but I don’t know what else you can do – we had four forwards on the pitch, we were pushing full-backs on as wingers and we were throwing everything we could at them trying to get crosses and shots in and it wasn’t to be.
“The most disappointing thing for me is if you can’t break them down and you end up with a point, that’s fine, but that bit at the end just sums our season up.”
In contrast, Exeter are only looking up after a second straight win and they now sit three points inside the play-off places.
Bowman was sent off for a second yellow after a heavy tackle on Michael Doyle and, although they created little, they stayed in the game and capitalised on County’s nervousness – with Donovan Wilson’s looped cross falling for Law to force home.
“You’re delighted because you win the game, but even if we’d got beaten in the last 10 minutes or even if it had been a draw, I’d have said the same thing,” said boss Matt Taylor.
“We executed a game plan in that second period.
“It’s disappointing with the red card and I’m disappointed for Ryan (Bowman) because that was two big mistakes on his part, but the way the team dug in and stuck to a task in that second period was simply outstanding.”