Noel Hunt admits Wigan Athletic will have to stay stay fully focused as they look to defend top spot in League One over the ‘massive’ festive period.
Latics retained their four-point lead over the rest with last weekend’s 4-0 victory at Wimbledon, to ensure the Christmas No.1 spot for 2017.
But Hunt – who turns 35 on Boxing Day – is well aware they will face a far stronger test of their promotion credentials on Saturday at play-off chasing Oxford, with back-to-back home games against high-flying Shrewsbury and Charlton to come next week.
“It’s a massive time of the year for us,” Hunt told the Wigan Post.
“We know the games come thick and fast, and it only takes a week to cut a gap at this level.
“We know we need to stay on it, and we need to stay focused on the next game – which is always the most important game of the season.
“All you can do is concentrate on yourself – not up, not down, just on yourselves – and you go again.
“We’re top at the moment but I’m not going to tempt fate.
“I’ve been in this position before, and you’ve just got to keep going because everything can change in a week in football.
“In the space of one game, you can either find yourselves seven points clear or just a point ahead.”
Having been in the game for almost two decades, Hunt knows the value of a relaxed and positive dressing room.
And he says this Latics group is up there with the best he’s come across.
“It’s great, it’s fantastic,” the former Ireland international enthused.
“If you’d have walked into the dressing room on Saturday you’d have seen eight or 10 guys playing two-touch.
“It’s a great craic, the banter’s there, and things like that can help you through.
“We’ve got to make sure we keep that going.”
Hunt’s late cameo at Wimbledon was his sixth appearance for Latics in the league, with all-but one of them coming off the bench.
It’s the role of an ‘impact sub’ that boss Paul Cook utilised during their successful spell at Portsmouth, and Hunt admits it’s great to still be involved.
“It was lovely to get on at the game,” he added. “I came on against Fylde last week and thought I did okay, and it was the same at Wimbledon. It was a tight game in the first half, and they were a tough side to break down.
“But once the first goal went in, it gave us the space to play.
“We’ve got great quality, in both areas of the pitch, and that’s a great asset to have.”