Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox held a heart-to-heart 45-minute post-match dressing room lock-in after today’s tame 3-0 surrender at Rochdale saw them go a 13th League game without victory.
Cox said the run had seen his side’s confidence drain away, but called on fans to back their players now more than at any other time ahead of Sunday’s tough trip to Cheltenham Town.
“I am a realist and we are in a relegation battle, however you try to dress it up,” he said.
“I have had a good chat with the boys in there.
“I thought today’s was a performance that looked like we left sorry for ourselves. That worries me a lot as, if lads want to bury their heads in the sand and believe this will just go away, it will be a while before we win a football match again.
“We have all just got things off our chest, me and the players, and tomorrow they will be in to watch the DVD with me and we look at the performance and I will tell them where I think things can be improved.
“At the moment, when confidence is low, a lot of people seem to be losing their heads. I am just trying to get across to players this will not go away. It is what is is.
“It’s all about doing the basics again. Rochdale did them well, worked extremely hard closing us down and three great balls in delivered three great goals.
“Football doesn’t feel sorry for you. Life doesn’t feel sorry for you. Sometimes you just have to fight back.”
Stags failed to even muster a shot on target against a debutant keeper today, despite playing three strikers, and Cox said: “It is tough. When you are down there, it’s hard sometimes. You have to drag yourselves out of it and stick together.
“As a group they have to take responsibility with on-field issues. We just sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot. You can see confidence draining away.
“It is now time to stand up and be counted and I think some of the players understand that. We have some tough games ahead of us.
“I keep saying if we don’t get back on the horse quickly, it gets harder. We are in a bit of a rut and as quickly as we can, we need to get out of it.
“We are lacking in confidence and belief and we look anxious. But this is the same group of players that everyone was patting on the back earlier in the season and the majority of whom won this club a championship last season.
“No one questioned the manager, players or our style of play earlier in the season. We have had two and a half years of success so this hurts.
“It is a bit foreign to me as in the last six or seven years I have never been through this for as long a period. But I do believe we will come out if it.
“I won’t let it get me down as I never let myself get too high or too low. I stay level. I wasn’t shouting from the rooftops when we won the league or took Liverpool so close in the FA Cup.”
Cox knows a section of Mansfield fans are now calling for him to go and he added: “I just need to get on with my job.
“I would never condemn the fans for having passion. I know a minority sometimes go over the top. But most fans have been been behind me 100 per cent since I came here.
“I can understand the frustration. It is easy to lose you heads when we are where we are.
“But we now need the fans more than at any other time.
“We are not losing football matches on purpose. The players are working hard, but are looking a little lost at the moment.
“There are still 72 points to play for and a lot of football to be played. There is also a massive open window for us next month when I need to add a bit of quality to this squad.”