Player-manager Michael Shinn has called on Haverhill Rovers to cut out inconsistences and prove why they are a top six side on merit.
Since putting together an impressive run of four straight victories at the beginning of November, Rovers form has taken a slight dip in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division with two defeats in their last three games, the latest of which seeing them slump to a 3-0 reverse at home against Long Melford on Boxing Day.
Ahead of a trip to Brantham Athletic on Saturday (3pm) Shinn conceded some of his squad had perhaps become complacent and has challenged them to regain their previous winning mentality.
“The last result was very frustrating and our performance throughout was poor,” he said.
“Inconsistency has crept in somewhat in recent weeks and perhaps some of the squad have become a little complacent thinking things will come easily.
“Hopefully that defeat will show them that we need to refocus because there is still a lot to be done.
“When you are winning every week things are great and come easily, however things have become a little more difficult now and it is interesting how things can change week to week.
“Mentality is massively important. When everyone is confident it is a great place to be but now this is a completely different experience for the players.
“We know we can’t match the sides at the top of the division but if we can find that consistency again then there is no reason why we can’t finish in the top six on merit, which would be 12 months ahead of schedule for us.”
Sixth-placed Rovers will be aiming to get back to winning ways across the border in Essex against a Brantham side they secured a dramatic late 1-0 success against back in November.
Shinn is hopeful of a repeat performance but remains fully aware of the threat that 11th-placed Athletic pose to his young and inexperienced squad.
“We beat them 1-0 earlier in the season but they had a man sent off and it took a late winner for us to get the victory,” he added.
“We are confident but Brantham are one of those sides that are really organised and have a threat going forward so it will be a really tough fixture.
“We have a really young squad who are enthusiastic and keen to show what they are capable of but we are not at a stage where we can relax in any game. We need to be at 100 percent to make sure we can get a result.”
The manager’s preparations have been dealt a blow ahead of the encounter with the news that both regular centre-halves Nick Wilderspin (knee) and Martyn Farrant (ribs) both picked up injuries in training this week, while Ricki Baker is also unavailable for the trip.
However despite the setbacks, Shinn still remains happy with the players at his disposal within a much more settled squad.
“Both Nick and Martyn picked up injuries in training which is a bit of a blow but I’m still happy with the squad,” he said.
“Last year there was a need to bring in players but this season I have a squad of 18 to 20 to pick from and things are a lot more settled, I don’t have a need to look for additions.”
n Meanwhile Haverhill Borough will be aiming to extend their current unbeaten run in the First Division when they host Stowmarket Town on Saturday (3pm).
A 2-2 draw with Halstead Town on Boxing Day stretched their unbeaten run to three matches to leave them sitting in ninth in the table ahead of their clash with Rick Andrews’12th-placed Town.