Club captain Nick Anderton wasn’t for mincing his words when we caught up with him on Thursday afternoon to get a dressing room perspective on the current frustrating run.
Typically direct and honest, he spoke candidly about the disappointment felt by the group at the way that dominant positions had been relinquished, with the team having established comfortable advantages in five of the last six games.
“There’s no sugar coating it, it hasn’t been good enough from the players,” he said. “To be leading in the last four games only to lose, there’s nothing else we can say other than it hasn’t been good enough.
“As a group of players we need to see out those results and performances, and we need to get back to getting the little things right that we had been doing before we missed so many games.”
With the manner of the defeats almost unprecedented in their manner, he admitted exasperation at how the situation has developed.
“We were coming into the dressing room wondering what on earth was going on after the first couple of games, but for it to continue – like I say losing from wining positions – it just isn’t good enough,” he reiterated.
“We have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a team, especially as a defender and a back four with the way we’ve conceded goals. The situations, individual errors, we’re just never going to win games if we do things like give away penalties in the manner we have been doing.
“It’s four penalties conceded in the past seven games, or whatever it is, and it does make it harder for ourselves when we do things like that.
“Look, we’re the same team, it’s the same group of players, and we can look it from the other side to see that we have been leading in the last four games and we’ve been getting back to the way we had been playing.
“It shows that we’re still playing with the same intensity, but we just need to flip the switch quick. It’s ok us saying that, but we only get judged on the result, and rightly so. We have to sort this out.”
Looking for reasons behind the current run, he said: “Before the break, when we were ahead in games we were relentless and we were on the front foot more as a whole group.
“Against Oldham on Saturday we went a goal up and I feel that we didn’t continue as a group at all with our foot on the gas. They got back into it, then they won it, and it was the same on Tuesday night.
“Whether or not it’s a penalty doesn’t matter, it still shouldn’t be a turning point in the game. But from the moment they score the penalty we have to be able to get back at it and show the levels of intensity we know we have in this squad.
“People ask if we’re feeling nervy - definitely not,” he insisted. “Apart from Harrogate, we’ve started every game well. We were going well against Tranmere and we gave them two silly goals when we were in leading positions.
“We were good against Salford, one up at half time, and that was the same with Oldham and Colchester. The same thing is happening but there is no nervousness within the group. Having said that, we have to iron it out, and that’s what we’re going to do.
“We have to respond to setbacks better, there’s no question about that. Every game is the same, you’re not going to be on top for all of it. That’s been the case in the last seven games and that’s why we have to take our chances.
“The other team is going to get chances and we’re going to make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with that. It’s making sure that if we make a mistake we iron it out so that nothing else comes from it.”
Heading into the new year the team had momentum, confidence and an abundance of energy so, and without looking for excuses, we wondered how much of an impact the enforced break had on those key elements.
“Yes, the situation we faced is unprecedented, but at the same time we’ve been back and training now for however long we’ve been back,” he said. “Personally, and I know the other lads feel the same, we aren’t looking at that as an excuse.
“It wasn’t good, it wasn’t at the right time with us having such good momentum, but it’s happened and there’s nothing we can do about it. If we want to do something good as a group, as a club and as a dressing room, we have to forget about that and put it behind us. We have to win these games we’ve got left.
“If you look back the first few games of the season was a little bit of us being a new team coming together, but then we seemed to be just rolling on. Individual errors happen, but the penalties are a massive one.
“Mine was a mistake that I should have never gone in for and Callum’s was the same. They’ve become moments that have been killing us. As I said before, these things do happen and it’s all about how you respond as a person and as a team out on the pitch at the time. We have to deal with the setbacks much better than we have been.”
“We’re all determined to get this back to where we were,” he continued. “It’s a great group, but at the same time none of us are happy with what we’ve been doing. We want to be better and we are better than what we’re showing at the moment.
“As individuals and as a group we want to win and be successful as a club. We’re working on getting that back, because we need to. If it was the case that we’d come back and we were getting battered 3-0 every week, and we weren’t creating opportunities, that would be a concern.
“The worst bit about this, the bitter pill for us to swallow, is that we’ve been leading in the last four games. We’ve shown that we score the goal and do the work to get ahead, it’s just the errors and lapses of concentration that have knocked us back.
“We’re not making teams have to work hard to score great goals against us, we’re gifting them opportunities. That wasn’t like us and we need it to stop.
“It’s all down to the players. The staff, everyone, have been brilliant this season. We play the way we play, we have the intensity we’ve had since we walked into the building.
“That’s the manager’s style of play and it’s what’s going to make us successful. It’s up to us to change this. We have to show that belief and drive again because we’ve proven that we can win games, dominate and do well. That’s what we just need to flip.”
And on the frustration felt by the supporters, he commented: “I don’t blame them, we know they’re all as frustrated as we are.
“I’m a football fan myself and you look at the club you support and the results they’re getting, and we know they just haven’t been good enough. That’s the way football is, fans are passionate and they want the club to do well and be up there in the table.
“Our recent form hasn’t been that, so we know criticism will come our way - and rightly so. We’ve done so well and we’ve proven that we are a good team, so we need to get back to that.
“The fans have been brilliant with us and we understand their frustration, but we need to prove to them that we are the players that they’ve seen for the first half of the year.
“Any team that is going to be success has to be honest with each other. If you aren’t winning games there’s a reason why, but if we were the type of group that just brushed things under the carpet we’d be happy to be mediocre, but we’re not like that.
“We don’t want to be mediocre, we want success, and to do that you have to be brutally honest with each other. We have to look back at the big moments and the mistakes are the reason why we’ve gone from top of the league to losing five games out of six.
“It isn’t the lay off or the postponements, or any of that. Even if fitness had been affected it still comes down to managing games better.
“That doesn’t need to be a physical effort to manage a game out and make sure the points come back on the bus with us from Colchester, it’s down to game management. We’ve had a long time off but none of us are looking at that as an excuse, it just hasn’t been good enough.
“From the first day the gaffer gave me the armband I said we had a group of players who had a lot to prove and we did that in the first half of the season. There are a lot of leaders in the dressing room, so it isn’t just me, but the communication, drive and talking about things and how we can get better are all things that have happened all season from me.
“It’s a sticky patch but we know what we are in that dressing room and we know what we’ve got.”
On to this weekend and it’s the short trip to Morecambe, where the Blues will be looking to get one over on their local rivals.
“It’s another game and another chance for us to get three points,” he said. “It’s the most important day of the week, everything has gone that has happened before and we’ve just got to work hard in the 90 minutes to get the three points.
“They’re in great form. They’ve scored a lot of goals in the last 15 to 20 minutes of games which shows they’re right together as a team.
“They aren’t in the position they’re in for no reason, they’ve picked up some good results. It’s going to be a battle for all of us but we’re just looking forward to getting back on the pitch and putting it right.”
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