Hartlepool United’s players could be playing for their own futures – as well the club’s – over the final 10 matches of the League Two season.
Boss Dave Jones admitted he was “angry” after seeing Pools lose again away from home on Saturday, 2-1 at relegation rivals Notts County.
The Meadow Lane setback was a fifth successive away defeat under the new manager, while they are unbeaten in five at home.
“You either change the mentality or you change the players,” was the blunt assessment of Jones.
His squad is too small to alter significantly now, though that sanction is open to him at the end of the season.
After an even first half at Notts County, Pools were sunk by second-half goals from Shola Ameobi and Jorge Grant.
Pools pulled one back 12 minutes from time thanks to a Hayden Hollis’s own goal, but it was too little, too late.
The worst aspect about the result was that it lifted the Magpies up to 19th and dropped Jones’s men to 22nd, just one spot – and six points – above the drop zone.
“It doesn’t matter whether they were top, bottom, wherever, it’s a game we should have got something from,” he said. “We didn’t.
“In my time here, that’s a few times I’ve said that away from home.”
“It’s got to stop,” added Jones, who takes his side to Cambridge United tomorrow night for another tough fixture.
“Last week two wins on the trot were being celebrated, that’s not what I’m about.
“We had an opportunity (at Notts County) to get some points and we didn’t take it, that’s why I’m so angry with them.
“We’ve been down here too long, so the mentality has to change.
“That’s why the chairman has brought me here, to give the club a different mentality. It’s ingrained here, hopefully we can change that.”
Notts County: Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hollis, Bola, Yeates (Smith 86), Hewitt, Milsom, Grant (Adam Campbell 90), Ameobi, Forte (Tahvon Campbell 71). Subs not used: Dickinson, Loach, Clackstone, Howes. Goals: Ameobi 47, Grant 70
Hartlepool Utd: Fryer, Richardson, Featherstone, Harrison, Donnelly, Woods, Hawkins (Deverdics 59), Alessandra, Oates, Amond, Thomas. Subs not used: Bartlett, Orrell, Rooney, Martin, Hawkes. Booked: Hawkins, Harrison. Goal: Hollis 78og
Ref: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)