ACCRINGTON Stanley coach Paul Stephenson has admitted that the Reds are short on confidence after they slipped further towards the relegation zone with defeat at Aldershot on Saturday.
Stanley were beaten 2-0 at their fellow strugglers to drop to within four points of the bottom two, who each have two games in hand.
Leam Richardson’s side have now won just one of their last 12 games and appear to be in real danger of being dragged into a relegation battle in the final months of the season.
The Reds are yet to officially confirm Ste-phenson on their coaching staff, with the former Newcastle, Millwall and Hartlepool midfielder brought in to help Richardson in recent weeks.
But it was the 44-year-old who conducted the post-match interviews on Saturday, acknowledging that a youthful Stanley side are struggling for confidence and need to grow up quickly.
“The result is very disappointing because we were looking for the three points,” said Stephenson, who was previously part of Lee Clark’s coaching staff at Huddersfield and also worked at Hartlepool and Norwich.
“At the moment we’ve got quite a young group and we’re trying to add a bit of experience to help them.
“They’re quite fragile in terms of their mentality and if we go up 1-0 and we’re on top, we can go on and win games like we did against Chesterfield.
“But at the moment if we go behind one or two are dropping their heads and really we need people who are going to roll their sleeves up and fight.
“The manager has told them that, and they understand that they’ve all got to stand up and be counted now and show some real fight.
“You start not believing in yourself, especially when you’re younger.
“The older lads are trying to help them as best they can but you’ve got to become a man in this game very fast.
“You’ve got to man up and make sure you bounce back from going behind. At the moment we’re not doing it but I’m sure we will.”
Stanley, who currently sit 19th in the table, host second bottom Wimbledon at the weekend before travelling to third bottom Plymouth seven days later.
And Stephenson believes the Reds need to improve on their performance at Aldershot.
“They didn’t offer a lot for the home side and we’re just really disappointed with the way we conceded,” he said.
“We are bitterly disappointed because we felt we were always in the game.
“We had a couple of spells, we started really well again but we are just getting into areas and not making good decisions and then getting caught with the sucker punch when the ball comes into the box.
“We got ourselves into some really good areas in the first 15 minutes but just rushed that last thing.
“Maybe that’s because we haven’t scored loads of goals of late and it can be a confidence thing.
“We just want them to have that little bit of composure and at the moment we’re just not finding it.
“We need to quickly.”