Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has asked supporters to subdue their frustration at the Blades’ recent inability to win games until the end of the season.
A growing wave of anxiety has gripped the United faithful after a run of one win in six that has seen them not only lose pace with the top two, but left them clinging onto their place in the top six.
But it is that fact that they remain in the play-off places, and firmly in the promotion hunt, that Clough points to as the Blades look to respond tonight at Walsall.
“Let the frustration come out at the end of the season, not when we’re in the play-off positions,” he said in a message to the fans.
“We keep going back to that 3-0 defeat at Crewe last year (February) that left us second from bottom – and look where we ended up (seventh).
“We got a battling point at Scunthorpe on Saturday and some supporters aren’t happy – that’s modern-day football.
“There’s certainly more to come from us. We’re not under-performing. Okay, we’ve not done as well in the two home games that we’d have liked, but teams aren’t ripping us to shreds and we’re still creating chances.
“You have these moments in seasons. Are Chelsea under-performing at the minute?
“Everyone hits these highs and lows throughout a season.”
The dip in form and resulting impatience from the terraces has impacted on a Blades squad that Clough says is now beginning to insulate itself from outside influences.
“I don’t think a siege mentality does any harm, but I don’t think you need the full-blown thing,” he said.
“Everything we’ve been working towards for the last six months, we stay together and nothing affects our focus.
“Whatever happens our focus is on getting in those play-offs.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away. Times like this strengthen the resolve of the club.”
Walsall head to Wembley on Sunday for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final, an occasion Clough concedes he hopes they have “one eye on” tonight.
United have recalled defender Harrison McGahey from his loan spell at Tranmere.
Last six games: Walsall DLDWLD, Sheffield United DWDLLD.
Referee: R Lewis (Shropshire).
Last time: Walsall 1 Sheffield United 0; November 12, 2014; JP Trophy.