Neal Ardley admitted AFC Wimbledon’s confidence had suffered since their shock FA Cup exit to non-league Sutton.
The Dons have taken three points from a possible 12 since the Vanarama National outfit won 3-1 at Kingsmeadow in mid-January.
“We’ve stuttered on confidence – certainly in the last month or so since the cup game,” said the Dons boss after disappointing draws against Charlton and Coventry City.
“There’s been a lack of confidence, a bit of flatness, and we’ve had to do a lot of work just to get the spark back in the boys and at the moment we’re not a cohesive team.
“All we can do is just keep going through and it will come back, I’ve no doubt about that. We are trying and will continue to try and get ourselves over that 52-point mark.”
Ardley is aware every decision he makes is under scrutiny during the current run, appropriately enough for a side sponsored by the Football Manager computer game.
“I know everyone believes they can be a football manager and every decision I make is probably wrong,” added the Dons boss. “It’s more than just making a substitution, putting a team out and picking the best players.
“You have to work the players’ minds, you have to get cohesion in the team and togetherness. Myself and Steve [Sylvester, sports psychologist] are very much in sync on psychology and I’ve done lots of work on counselling with the players to try and get them where they need to be.
“The spark isn’t there in the group but I’m not going to shout and holler at them, I can’t do that when they’re short of confidence, I’ve got to try and build them up.
“We try and give them the freedom to make decisions – we don’t treat them like robots – and when you’re short of confidence you make a lot of wrong decisions. In that situation, at times you lose a little bit of trust in each other. Whereas before you were running off each other believing the balls’ going to come, expecting it to stick, now people are under apprehension and thinking ‘should I go? Should I not?’
“Sometimes the only way it comes back is a good win and all of a sudden the world’s good again.”
Ardley is expected to bring Tom Elliott back as the focal point of his attack at Shrewsbury on Saturday as the Dons attempt to arrest their dip in form. The striker has served his one-game ban for being sent off in the 1-1 draw against Charlton
“We’ll get the boys in and count the bodies,” he added. “We’ll get a squad together and we’ll go again on Saturday.”