A crisis of confidence has come at just the wrong time for Fleetwood Town – and results have to be turned around quickly.
So says boss Graham Alexander, who watched on in horror as his side slipped to their worst defeat of the campaign, beaten 4-0 on home turf by the boys from Home Park.
Plymouth Argyle have play-off ambitions of their own and clawed their way to within five points of Alexander’s Fleetwood side.
The Town manager was left to remind his charges they were professional players not pub footballers.
The Fleetwood boss admitted a change of mentality was needed, and quickly, after a second-half no show which left the Highbury faithful fuming.
“It looked like there was a confidence issue,” he said.
“We started really, but as soon as the goal goes in there’s a negative feeling around the place.
“But there’s another 70 minutes to go and we’re a high scoring team.
“I don’t know why there’s a negative mentality.
“If we didn’t score goals I can understand going 1-0 is going to be devastating.
“The problem we’ve got is that, and I’ve said it before, if you don’t win you’ve got to grind out a result. We’ve not got that balance and we’ve got to find it quick.”
Reuben Reid opened the scoring, probably just against the run of play.
It was a goal which shook Fleetwood to the core, Alexander shocked by the manner in which his players responded.
“Before the goal we were the better team,” he said.
“We passed it really well, I was sitting there really pleased.
“We needed to score from a couple of the opportunities we got.
“But we passed it, we were composed, we got down the sides of them.
“Then we concede a goal and don’t react in the right way.
“We said at half time don’t chase the game, but then the second goal is a massive punch in the stomach.
“It’s deflected into the corner, it’s a bit of bad luck.
“But that doesn’t detract from the fact we need to hold ourselves as professionals better than we did.”
Luke Young bagged the second for Argyle shortly after the break – setting off a total collapse in the Fleetwood ranks, Maxime Blanchard and Conor Hourihane taking full advantage to seal the Pilgrims’ win.
Town’s manager struggled to find any positives from the evening.
He said: “There were a couple of individuals who can say they have done their best.
“Are there any other positives? No, probably not.
“I’m a realist, I’m a professional. Getting beaten 4-0 at home isn’t good enough.
“Before we look for any positives we have to confront the negatives and they are plain to see.”
The problem, identified by the Fleetwood boss, who will surely come under pressure from the boardroom should Town look like losing their play-off berth, came down to a plain lack of fight.
He said: “I was disappointed with the body language.
“We’ve been quite frank with them about that.
“I don’t think any of them chucked it but there’s a difference between playing and competing.
“We played but we didn’t compete – when you’re right on the line, on the verge of going over it, when you’re angry.
“We didn’t see that.”
And it wasn’t just Fleetwood’s players who were left feeling low on the back of their second consecutive defeat.
“I’m finding it hard because that’s the worst feeling I’ve had all season,” said Alexander.
“It’s miles worse than not going to Wembley after the Chesterfield game, because there we went down fighting.
“It wasn’t good enough.
“I’m disappointed, I’m not clever enough to come up with a better word to sum it up that’s not a swear word.”
Alexander was, at least, buoyed by the fact his players were furious with each other – a reminder after an inadequate display on the pitch they took their professional responsibilities seriously
“They’ve been frank with each other.If we’d have heard nothing that would have been disappointing,” said Alexander.
“But they’ve been having a go at each other and that’s the right response.
“We’re not mates, we’re not playing in a pub league where we have a beer before the game and have a laugh.
We are professionals and we’ve got to show that.”