Tom Clarke says Preston North End need to quickly add some consistency to their play in the wake of the dip in results over the last few weeks.
The Lilywhites have had decent spells in all of their games but an inability to spread that over the whole 90 minutes of late has dropped them into the bottom three.
Saturday’s defeat against Brentford was a prime example, with them taking an early lead and having the better of the first half.
That gave way to something of a shocker in the second period as the Bees hit back to win 2-1.
Such a dip in performance saw the players have their Sunday off cancelled, the time spent instead watching a re-run of events at Griffin Park.
Whether that has the desired effect will be seen at Deepdale as PNE play host to Bournemouth in the third round of the Capital One Cup.
North End skipper Clarke said: “What happened against Brentford was frustrating.
“We got the early goals, started well and had a few chances to stretch the lead.
“Brentford were always going to come at us in the second half and straight from the kick-off were on top.
“That was something we should have been ready for and we talked about that when we came in on Sunday.
“What happened in the second half wasn’t acceptable – we expect higher standards of each other.
“We feel like we are starting well in games but we need to be like that in both halves and not just in patches.
“Going in on Sunday was all about looking back at what happened at Brentford, and discussing what we have to do better.
“Sometimes these things need to be done and hopefully we can take things on board.
“The frustrating thing is that we played well in the first half and showed what we can do.
“So to drop off like we did was disappointing – we need to play well throughout games.”
The Championship has not conjured up any surprises for North End in Clarke’s view, with the squad well aware of the standards which awaited them after promotion.
It has just been reaching such a level on a consistent basis which has proved the problem.
“We always knew we were going into a difficult league where there are some very good teams,” Clarke said.
“In this division you have got players who only need half a chance to put the ball in the net.
“There have been times in games when the other team haven’t really been threatening us and then they have scored a goal right out of the blue.
“That is what this league can be all about and is something we have to be switched on to.
“If you play well for a spell and then drop below your best, then you will get punished.
“In both boxes you have to be more ruthless, take your chances when they come and be stronger defending your own box.
“A lot of teams have three or four players who can really hurt you.
“We hurt Brentford with our goal – it was a good move and that showed what we are capable of.”
Bournemouth’s visit is the first of two home games this week, with Wolves here on Saturday.
The Cherries arrive on the back of a decent first few weeks in the Premier League and fresh from their 2-0 win over Sunderland at the weekend.
Clarke sees the game as a similar test to the one North End had in the previous round when they beat Watford – promoted together with Bournemouth – 1-0 a month ago.
“This is a game we want to win – we want to build a winning mentality again,” said Clarke.
“We want a win in the cup to take into the league game against Wolves on Saturday. It is a similar challenge to what we had against Watford a few weeks ago.
“Watford made a lot of changes but still put out a strong side and I would think Bournemouth will do the same because they have a good-sized squad.
“They have some very good players in their squad. Callum Wilson is on the fire at the moment and it was an unbelievable finish from Matt Ritchie on Saturday.
“We have had a talk about what they will offer and how we can play against them and done some work on the training ground.
“This is the first of two massive games at Deepdale.
“Hopefully we can get a good result and performance against Bournemouth to take into the Wolves game.
“We enjoy the cups here and have generally done well against teams from a higher division. Sometimes cup games can be used a platform for an improvement in the league.”