Hartlepool United are suffering from a crisis of confidence – that’s the view of Pools’ boss Craig Harrison.
Having managed to get themselves into winning positions on a number of occasions in the last few months, Pools are yet to win a game since November 21.
And Harrison thinks he’s got to the heart of the issue with his players.
“Putting your finger on the issues is hard,” said the manager.
“But I do think a lot of it is confidence.”
It’s easy to look back at the start of the poor run as the turning point of the season, but that’s not quite the way Harrison sees it.
While he accepts the results dried up in mid-November, he’s not so sure that is when the confidence drained from his squad.
“It is no coincidence that we have been a bit shaky since the Macclesfield debacle,” he said.
“From a winning position that day, in a matter of minutes we were losing.
“The downturn has gone hand in hand with what’s gone on off the field.
“I think we hit a brick wall psychologically.
“Since then, there’s been times when we have had blocks of games and known what we need to do and fell short.
“Macclesfield sucked the life out of a lot of people at this club.
“We have taken the lead against loads of teams lately. There have been games where we have lost 18 to 20 points from winning positions.
“I thought Gateshead away was the turning point – it wasn’t. We need a clean sheet from somewhere. A performance.”
Football, for Harrison, is a game played out as much in any player’s head, as it is on the pitch.
“Things are fragile, players are fragile,” he said.
“A lot of this game is in your head, confidence driven. When things are not going well it can be difficult.
“It’s a mental thing, you can show people how to play, go through it in different ways to show people, whatever you may do, but it’s hard to get the mentality out of your head and we battle against it day by day.
“Keeping morale up is important. In professional sport, it’s in the head and it’s looked like that of late, since Macclesfield to be honest, done with a late sucker punch and losing after looking like beating the team at the top.
“Since then, we’ve tried to build confidence and we have been in games since when we have been in front and leading, but didn’t win the game.
“It’s concentration, mentality, and going in front means we are doing something right. Then we go and press the explode button, but it’s a mental thing.
“All these players are good enough to be at this level and higher, but when you get it in your head that you aren’t it’s a real tough demon to control.
“The players have proved they can do it – Chester is the example of that. But confidence and concentration is an issue at this stage.”