Gary Waddock is hoping that dropping out of the play-off positions will be the shock Oxford United’s players need to halt their slump.
A 2-0 defeat at home to Fleetwood Town last Saturday saw the U’s drop out of Sky Bet League Two’s top seven for the first time this season.
They are only a point behind York City, who leapfrogged them with a goalless draw at Rochdale, but United’s form is bleak.
A return of five points from the last ten games is the worst in the division and with just five fixtures remaining, there is little time to arrest the slide.
Waddock admitted the players were “devastated” by the latest setback, but felt coming out of the spotlight could help a squad which is desperately low on confidence.
“We’ll look at it and go ‘wow, now we have to turn up’,” the U’s head coach said.
“We won’t know until we see how they respond next week.
“In recent games we haven’t won, apart from the game here against Hartlepool, but before and after that, possibly the players have been looking over their shoulder.
“We are out of it now, so let’s go and chase them down.
“You’ve got to go and look at the positives, let’s see if York are mentally strong enough to deal with it.”
United’s task gets no easier this weekend, as they visit Plymouth Argyle.
The Pilgrims are also hoping to break into the top seven and can close to within a point of the U’s with a win in their game in hand at Newport County tonight.
Waddock pointed to the experience of another side in the play-offs, Southend United, as a source of encouragement.
The Shrimpers went 12 games without a win, falling out of the top seven, but a 3-0 success against United last month has sparked them into a three-game winning run.
Waddock added: “One win in ten games is a poor run and that affects all of us.
“But you look at Southend and the run they went on – they pulled themselves out of it and we have to do the same.
“No-one is going to help us, we have to help ourselves.”