Paul Cook has warned Wigan Athletic to beware the wounded animal that is Derby County ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Pride Park.
Latics have the chance to extend the buffer between themselves and the bottom three to six points if they can take advantage of their game in hand.
Derby could do with the points themselves, having lost ground in the play-off picture following three successive defeats during which they’ve failed to score.
The latest loss was a 4-0 spanking at Aston Villa on Saturday, but Cook says Latics will not be lulled into a false sense of security.
“You look at the team Derby could put out...possibly (Martyn) Waghorn, (Jack) Marriott, (Harry) Wilson up front...I don’t think there’s a good time to face that lot!” he said.
“All we can do is focus on ourselves, and the work ethic I’m seeing from the players is very pleasing.
“Even in the Ipswich game the other week, we kept going, we were relentless in our pursuit of the equaliser.
“Obviously we wanted the win – as we did against Middlesbrough on Saturday – but it’s another point on the board.
“You could end up drawing your way to safety, but it’s not what we want.
“We want to give our fans wins to cheer about.”
Cook is relishing the opportunity of locking horns in the technical area with Frank Lampard, who is unduring the first speedbump of his short managerial career.
“I just think Frank’s getting into the crux of management now, and it’s what we all go through,” acknowledged Cook.
“They’ve had such a good start, with the cup runs, the win at Old Trafford, and flying high in the league.
“Then all of a sudden they get to a point where injuries come in, everything’s happening and this is what management is all about.
“I’m sure the last week or so will have been a great learning curve for Frank as a manager.
“And I’m sure it’s only going to help his development.”
Cook also denied there was any added pressure on the game with the season entering its final straight.
“I feel that pressure in August and September to be honest – never mind March and April!” he smiled.
“I’m sure Frank will be just the same, and we’ll both be desperate for the three points on the night.
“Three points is three points, regardless of which stage of the season you’re at.
“But naturally, because of the stage of the season we’re at, the games become that much more heightened.
“We’re obviously trying to do something at our end of the table, and Derby are trying to do something at their end.”
Cook also says Saturday’s trip to relegation rivals Reading won’t act as any sort of distraction ahead of tonight.
“The message from me remains the same – there’s a points tally out there for us to gain,” he added.
“Once we achieve that points tally, it will be very difficult for the teams below us to touch.
“Within that, we have to win some football matches – and it starts with our game in hand.
“If we were able to come back from Derby with a win, it would be a real morale-boosting exercise.”