MARK Saunders has urged his Tiverton Town players to show their character when they travel to struggling Sholing on Saturday.
Tivvy head into the match off the back of three straight defeats – the latest being a 4-1 hammering at home to Paulton Rovers in the second round of the Red Insure Cup.
That followed Saturday's 2-1 home loss to high-flying Poole Town, which was preceded by a 1-0 defeat at leaders Hungerford Town the week before.
And Saunders wants his players to bounce back on Saturday at the Southampton club following Tuesday's poor defeat in which Adam Faux saw red for dissent with the Yellows already 3-0 down.
"We just have to show a little bit of character to get ourselves out of this rut we have suddenly got into," said Saunders after the match, in which Jules Emati-Emati bagged a late consolation for Tivvy.
"All of a sudden we look a bit short of confidence although, having said that, we fought back when we were down to 10 men in the second half and got the goal we deserved.
"We fought hard but again we were poor with the football, especially from some of what you would call our flair players.
"We will move on though, put it behind us and hopefully turn the corner this weekend with a better performance."
Saunders risked incurring a fine from the competition organisers on Tuesday as he fielded just five players who had started the last two league games, while rules stipulate that seven must be named.
A lack of familiarity did not seem to affect them too much as they matched Paulton in the early exchanges.
But the visitors then scored three quickfire goals in just under 20 minutes.
Goalkeeper Chris Wright – who had earlier made a fine trio of saves – ventured out of his box, only to backtrack and be lobbed by Brandon Barnes.
After another good save from Wright, Barnes set up Joe Vyner for number two, before Ben Osman scored a penalty following a foul by Faux, which subsequently saw the defender red-carded for comments made to the referee.
A more even second half saw Harry Nodwell depart with an ankle injury that is likely to rule him out for at least two weeks, before Owen Howe came on for a bright cameo showing.
Vyner then teed up Barnes for 4-0, before Emati-Emati pulled one back two minutes into injury time.
"It did not go our way from the start. We gave some of the other lads a chance to get some minutes but it did not go according to plan," admitted Saunders, who rested top scorer Joe Bushin with a minor back complaint.
"We started off well and looked quite bright but then a long ball over the top caught us out, Chris Wright left it for the two centre-backs and they have taken the lead."
"Adam Faux then made a tackle and the ball has gone forward but the referee has given a penalty. Adam then said something and the referee has sent him off for dissent, but all he said was that it was a poor decision.
"From then on, only one team was going to win it."
That loss came after a second league defeat against promotion-chasing opposition in as many weeks as Poole Town left Ladysmead with all three points on Saturday.
The Yellows struggled to move out of second gear for most of the match, and they were punished for their lack of fluency by goals in each half from skipper Michael Walker and Marvin Brooks.
Not even a first goal in Tivvy colours for Dave Pearse could spark the Yellows into life, although they could have won a penalty late on as Josh Searle appeared to be fouled in the penalty box.
"It was a fair result – we did not deserve anything out of it," he said. "It was by far the worst performance of the season from us so far and that is obviously disappointing.
"We just did not have anything about us all game and that is the first time we have said that all season."