OXFORD United’s players have to stand up and take responsibility for their own poor performances, according to manager Chris Wilder.
A short unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt on Monday night, when they were dismantled 3-0 at Port Vale.
It was United’s seventh npower League Two defeat of the season and with a quarter of the campaign gone the U’s are sitting a lowly 19th in the table.
It was a worrying display from a side which lost six straight league games last month, especially with the way the side crumbled after falling behind.
The pressure is on Wilder, who has taken most of the criticism for a disappointing season, to find answers ahead of Saturday’s home game against Accrington Stanley.
But the U’s boss feels now is the time for the players to regroup.
He said: “I was asked ‘what do you do to pick the lads up?’ but the lads need to pick themselves up.
“There’s enough drive about us (the coaching staff) to get us going and look forward to the Accrington Stanley game.
“These players are professional footballers and I think sometimes (the focus) is what do we have to do for them, but they have to do it for themselves as well.
“If they are going to forge careers, especially the younger ones, they have to take nights like that on the chin and learn from it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“But at the moment we’re too up and down with team selection, too up and down in terms of the players we have available and we’re too up and down in our performances.”
One of the few positives to come out of Monday’s defeat was another substitute appearance from Andy Whing.
The versatile 28-year-old has been out since the summer with a groin injury, but has now featured in the last two games.
His experience has been missed, with Wilder pointing to Vale’s third goal, scored by Sam Morsy, as an example.
He said: ”We talked about (Jennison) Myrie-Williams coming in and laying it to the edge of the box – but where’s the block? Where’s the defensive responsibilities?
“Jake (Forster-Caskey) and Chappy (Adam Chapman) unfortunately have to learn to play without the ball.
“They can’t just come alive when they get on the ball – that’s where your Whings and Levens are good because they play with the ball and are knowledgeable enough to stand in good positions when they haven’t got it.”