Town have managed to steer themselves to League One safety – albeit not mathematically secured – despite missing the manager who turned around their fortunes for four months.
Relentless boss Cotterill has, however, continued to pull the strings while in hospital and at home recovering and Town, who host Doncaster for a lunch-time kick-off today, reached the 50-point mark last week.
"The manager has came in, changed a few things, and the biggest compliment is the players have responded well," said former academy boss Longwell, who has taken on a permanent role under Cotterill's coaching staff alongside assistant Aaron Wilbraham.
"They have listened, took on the stuff. Steve has a real hunger and desire to want to win and get the best out of the players. I think they've responded to that.
"When you look at the size of the squad, getting everything out of it, the players put their bodies on the line every week, some games are gruelling, I remember talking to them after Burton and Gillingham, it's physically demanding.
"And the players deserve praise and credit. You want your manager in the club, at training, here, but very few people can still have the influence he has (while away), but that's because of the character he has, the way he holds people and the standards he put in place."
Having been appointed in late November, Cotterill was named League One manager of the month for December after a stunning run of results lifted Town from second-bottom to 16th.
But his last game in charge in person was the home win against Blackpool in front of supporters on December 29. He has since spent around 50 days in hospital over two spells, including a weekend in intensive care, with Covid-19 and Covid-pneumonia.
His absence could have easily unravelled Town's season but the Montgomery Waters Meadow outfit have retained a consistency while their manager has been regaining his health.
Cotterill, 56, has managed to continue inspiring his players despite being hundreds of miles away. Longwell added: "Very few people can be on loudspeaker and you think he's in the room. The players are always engaged and on it, even though they are not there, he would still pick up if somebody wasn't listening! He doesn't miss anything.
"That is why he's so good and has made such a difference here."