Oldham Athletic suffered their fifth defeat of the season on Saturday, losing 2-1 at home to Port Vale at Boundary Park.
Assistant head coach Alan Maybury was once again in the dugout for the match, with Harry Kewell still self-isolating after a positive COVID-19 test earlier in the week.
On Tuesday evening, they play the division's basement club in Southend United in what could be a crucial game:
"We travel down to Southend, it's a big game for us now and it's just trying to find that consistency. We need to get results and we need to start games better than we did today."
It was truly a game of two halves for the Latics at the weekend, with the hosts struggling in before the interval and Vale running rampant. Maybury says that his side just isn't getting some of the basics right at the moment:
"For 45 minutes, at times when we got the ball down and switched play, we looked a threat, but they looked every time they went forwards - especially early on, that first 20-25 minutes - that they could probably score. So, we'd had a warning,
"I think they'd had a couple of headers from corners, we're trying to rectify that and then we let in another goal from a set-piece. In the middle of all of that, they'd already missed that from a yard - you know, ridiculous things, and we were just too easy to play against in that early bit. And then the second goal, again it's another right-back scoring against us, but I'm not sure how you can take a throw-in, get it back, and then be able to take it past two or three and bend it in the corner? Very simple, basic mistakes and we're just not doing that side of it well enough at the moment.
"[In the] second half, as we have been doing, we get after teams, we play on the front foot, we ask questions, we get a goal back, we look threatening and make more of a game of it. At the moment, some we're getting back and some like today we didn't."
Starting games slowly
In both of their previous two games, Oldham have struggled in the first half and then had a much-improved performance after the break. The assistant head coach spoke about how he believes that despite the issues off-the-pitch with Kewell's absence in the past week, he expects the side to perform better:
"I accept that the last week or so has been difficult with the manager not being in, other staff being off and whatever else is going on. But, the preparation's been done, the information has been done, we try and give them as much, might have given them too much so we're trying to get that balance right.
"I've said to them in there that I think there's a willingness to do well. Physically they're fit, technically and tactically I don't see the issues, so it's just knowhow, or experience, or naïvety, something like this that's just holding us back at the moment."
When against Carlisle it was bringing on Danny Rowe that made the difference, it was once again half-time substitutions which helped the Latics to improve. Maybury was impressed with the impact that the changes had:
"I think they were hurting us down there [the wings], I don't think we were dealing with their threat well enough. I refer to the boys that came out, I don't think it was their best game today but over the last period of time they've done well for us. We have spoken about - do we need to take them out? But we're trying to get some sort of balance and a consistency to the team.
"I think the boys that came in just gave us something. [Cameron Borthwick-Jackson]'s just coming back from injury, so there's an eagerness to get back into the side. Dylan [Fage]'s been playing but maybe in other positions, and did well and had a good understanding with Moyo [Dylan Bahamboula] down the right-hand side so I think they both added something to the team in the second half."
Speaking about their struggle in the first half, Maybury said that he and the manager take some blame if the players are not getting their message:
"Just the naïvety about us maybe in the first half or thinking someone else will do your job. I think there's a willingness to do well there so is it a lack of understanding?
"You know, myself and the manager take some blame for that if they're not getting the message. But then, at times, we show we can do it but it was just too easy for us to play. We spoke before the game about being narrow and compact but we were just far too open in that early period and that's probably where the game's lost."
Clarke's first start
Arsenal youngster Harry Clarke made his first start on Saturday after his debut midweek. Maybury said that he was one of the few players who could hold their head up after the performance:
"I think he's one of the few who can hold his head up tonight and I think he's done really well. He's a young boy, I'd just seen when he tweeted out the other night that it was his debut when he came on so in a game like this he relishes the physical side, he's comfortable on the ball, he's determined to get back and win things so he's one of the few who can hold his head up."
A change of formation
The Latics adopted a five at the back against Bolton Wanderers and Carlisle United and it performed well, while they looked to struggle even more defensively with only four against Port Vale. Maybury explained the reasoning behind changing the setup:
"Three or five at the back has been something which came about down at Colchester, it's worked in patches, there's probably not loads of work being done on that. At times it's worked and at times it hasn't so just the way we finished the game the other night, players that are available to us, and it was a case of trying to get as many attacking players in their positions. We knew they would play a 4-1-4-1 and just trying to give us the best chance with [Danny Rowe] maybe just dropping on on the deepest midfielders.
"I just felt it was the right tactics, just trying to keep it simple and straight forward for the players at the moment."
Zak Dearnley's performance
One positive for the Latics from Saturday's performance is that Zak Dearnley found himself on the scoresheet once again, his third goal in as many games for the club. The assistant head coach said he was happy with his performance, but he probably needs to contribute more to the team:
"His goalscoring is good. I said during the week that we're glad to have him. He's scored a winner and an equaliser in the last week but again, like a lot of the players, we need more.
"Three in three is brilliant, but he probably needs to contribute something more in the team as well. Whether it's that we're not getting him enough of the ball - certainly in the first half, there were things we were trying to do and he was trying to do them but we never really gave him a chance to do it so some of the blame falls on him, some falls on the team.
"His goal scoring is good and we need it to continue, but we probably need more from him and a lot of other players."