PETER JACKSON today urged critics to stick behind him and the team as Town were hit by another piece of bad injury news.
The manager admits he has been stung by reaction to Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Macclesfield, which left Town with the worst defensive away record in the country and marked an end to the patience and confidence of a section of supporters.
Jackson remains defiant, however, and after learning that first-choice keeper Ian Gray will be out for another five to eight weeks because of his broken left hand, he answered those fans asking for change after just two wins in 11 matches.
"You have to expect criticism in this game, especially when your away record is as poor as ours, but I'm hurt and disappointed by the level of criticism myself and the lads have received since Saturday," said the manager, who watched Town Reserves lose 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday yesterday.
"We were all bitterly disappointed about the performance and result at Moss Rose, but I think some of the comments have gone way over the top and I've been astonished to hear of people calling for my head.
"Myself and everyone here couldn't be doing more to try and rectify the problems we've got away from home and we are only half way through the season with a lot of games to come.
"We are five points off the play-off places and I've reminded everyone in the club that we still have everything to play for and an excellent home record which we aim to keep going against Oxford on Saturday.
"It's a Quid-a-Kid game and we need as many people as possible down to back the lads. Getting on their backs will do us no good at all; we need everyone pulling together for the result we need to take us into the Christmas games."
Jackson is keeping his options open on a possible loan signing to cover for Gray's extended absence.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Phil Senior - who Jackson blames for none of the goals conceded at Macclesfield - has a niggling shoulder injury.
"I'm keeping the loan option on a back burner until we know exactly how Phil is," said Jackson.
"He has been struggling with the injury for a week or so and seems to be coming through okay, but if it gets any worse it might cause us concern.
"We do have Lee Martin as the experienced back-up, but it's not an ideal situation because of Lee's other duties and with Ian Gray now facing a long spell on the sidelines.
"The broken bones on the outside of his damaged hand have healed okay, but it's the middle finger, the one he dislocated, which is not progressing as it should - and that's why the specialist says it will need the extra few weeks to get sorted."