TIVERTON Town manager Mark Saunders has urged his players to recapture their early-season form, starting at home to Clevedon Town on Boxing Day.
After a superb start to the campaign – which briefly saw the Yellows top the Southern League Division One South & West standings in November – Tivvy have endured a slump in form which has seen them draw two and lose three of their last five league and cup matches.
Saunders has blamed the downturn on simply too many of his players not performing to their potential. And with a hectic fixture list of three games in the next week coming up he wants the problem solved.
"You can carry two or three players having an off-day at the same time, that happens every so often, but recently we have been having eight or nine players having off days and we can't afford that," he said.
"The last four or five games have certainly been very different compared to how we started the season, but we just have to keep going and playing our game and hopefully we can turn it around and get the results.
"We need to get out of this dip quickly so we can start putting points on the board again, but we are not a bad side.
"You do not become a bad side overnight, so we have to get back to how we were playing earlier on in the season.
"Whether it is the heavy pitches at the moment causing that? I do not know, but the sooner we can get out of it the better.
"It is an important period over Christmas with the games coming thick and fast, so we have to get back into good form as soon as we can."
Tivvy head into the Boxing Day fixture at home to Clevedon off the back of an 11-day break, after Saturday's match at Abingdon United was postponed due to the wet weather.
After Clevedon, bogey side Paulton Rovers – who won 4-1 at Ladysmead in the Red Insure Cup at the start of December – visit Mid Devon on Saturday, before a derby match at Taunton Town on New Year's Day.
And Saunders, who heads into the Clevedon match short of central defensive options with both Paul Kendall and Adam Faux suspended, admits the next two games will provide a stern challenge for his Tivvy team, although he is still targeting maximum points.
"I think we have to look at every game as being winnable," he said.
"We have already played Clevedon once this season in the FA Cup and we lost 2-0.
"Even though we lost by quite a clear scoreline, anybody who was watching will tell you that we absolutely battered them that day – we just did not take our chances.
"They will be a tough side to beat. They have signed Scott Murray, the former Bristol City player, and are looking to turn things around there, but it is a game we definitely can win.
"After that we have Paulton and we always struggle against them – they really are our bogey side.
"We are going to have that cup game in mind, although we played a lot of that with just 10 men, but we know we can get a result against them."