LEE CLARK admits Huddersfield Town cannot afford too many repeats of Tuesday night's League One performance against Plymouth Argyle if they are to win promotion from a division that is becoming increasingly too close to call.
But the Terriers manager has backed his players to bounce back from being booed by a section of the Galpharm Stadium faithful at the end of the 3-2 win over the Pilgrims, who had a man sent off in the early stages of each half.
The win was enough to lift Town to within a point of second-placed Southampton, who moved up a place themselves courtesy of a 6-0 triumph at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday – a victory which will not have gone unnoticed by Town chairman Dean Hoyle.
Clark, whose squad came under fire from Hoyle after they failed to deliver at Boundary Park earlier in the season, admitted to being hugely disappointed by his side's second-half efforts against the Pilgrims.
Town's boss, who has enjoyed victory and defeat against the Saints, said: "I will not let that win paper over the cracks. I know there is a lot we need to work on but these lads are desperate to put that performance right.
"We need to play a lot better than that in the future. We probably only got away with it because it was 11 versus nine.
"The lads have shown they have what it takes so many times – against Sheffield Wednesday twice, against Southampton at home, Charlton at home and Colchester United away.
"We have a lot of good players here and a terrific squad but lost our way against Plymouth," added Clark, whose side will be chasing a double at Walsall on Saturday.
The jeering that greeted the final whistle on Tuesday was in stark contrast to the standing ovation Town received at half-time after coming from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 – in many ways it reflected the inconsistency several clubs with promotion ambitions are experiencing this season.
Clark was at a loss to explain why his side had followed up such a stirring fightback with a below-par second 45 minutes.
However, the Town manager added: "I don't know whether the number of games played over the last few weeks took its toll. When you misplace a pass across five yards it means you are losing your concentration and you are fatigued mentally.
"The main thing is points, but I try to be honest and open and the fans were well within their rights to boo."
Counterpart Peter Reid refused to criticise referee Paul Tierney despite the official sending him off along with two of his players.
Argyle were 2-0 up after 15 minutes thanks to two goals from Joe Mason but inbetween had Curtis Nelson dismissed. The Terriers came back through Kari Arnason's own goal and Jordan Rhodes's 10th League One strike of the season before Peter Clarke made it 3-2 before half-time. The Pilgrims then had Stephane Zubar dismissed after the break to add to manager Reid, who had been sent to the stands.
The victory proved important for Town after the League One promotion battle took another twist yesterday as Darren Ferguson returned to take charge of Peterborough after being sacked by Preston North End at Christmas.
Ferguson will, no doubt, have first call on any youngsters father Sir Alex wants to send out on loan from Manchester United and he has targeted winning a third promotion with the Posh after completing his shock return to London Road.
The 38-year-old took them from League Two to the Championship in successive years during his first spell in charge but left in acrimonious circumstances in November 2009 with the club bottom.
A poor year in charge of Preston followed for Ferguson and Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony has seen Mark Cooper, Jim Gannon and Gary Johnson try but fail to emulate his achievements while with Posh.
Johnson was the latest to depart on Monday but after a 2-1 win over Brentford on Tuesday lifted Posh up to fifth, Ferguson is confident of an immediate return to the Championship. "You'd have to say automatic promotion is still possible. Anyone who can go on a run has got a right chance," he said.
"I know the saying is 'never go back' but I don't believe in that. I've missed the place. I've had a hard 12 months at Preston but it's good to be back."
Sixth-placed Charlton, have signed young Liverpool striker Nathan Eccleston – he was at Town last season – on loan until the end of the season.