SEASONED campaigner Paul Mullin is hoping Accrington Stanley can turn around their worst start to a League Two campaign by seeing off big guns Bradford tomorrow.
The Reds have picked up just seven points from their nine league encounters so far - compared to 11 in their first season back in the Football League and 12 in the first nine games of last season - and they have lost five out of the last six league matches.
But club stalwart Mullin, in his ninth season with the Reds, has seen it all before - and backs Stanley to get out of their current rut and move up from their 18th place in the table.
"It can’t go on. It is just so frustrating at the moment as we cannot put a consistent 90 minutes together," said Mullin, 34.
"We have spells in games but we just seem to be a different side in the second half and I don’t know what it is.
"I don’t know if it is fitness or an inability to deal with setbacks. I can’t put my finger on it and I don’t think anyone at the club can.
"We have done a lot of running this week and worked on our fitness and sharpness and we are going to have to sort it out as it just can’t continue."
Mullin is aware that Stanley do seem to have hit a lean spell in all their league campaigns so far. They had one win in ten games last season and one win in 13 league games the season before - their first season back in the Football League.
"We have had longer spells without a win that this," said Mullin, who is Stanley’s record appearance holder. "I remember after Christmas last year when it just seemed to go on and on.
"So this isn’t the depths of despair yet but we know we have got to nip it in the bud quickly.
"We don’t want any of the teams below us to think we are dropping like stones and give them any encouragement.
"We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders and we need to get our confidence back. It is a big factor in football and I think, if we have one win, we can go on from there.
"And there would be no better time than against Bradford. Traditionally we do seem to do better against the bigger sides and it should be a good crowd, a good atmosphere and hopefully that will bring the best out of us."
Mullin knows, though, they are reliant on the current squad to do it as, despite Rostyn Griffiths extending his one month loan spell from Blackburn Rovers for another month this week, they are low on squad numbers.
And this was made worse when defender Peter Murphy twisted his knee in the reserve draw with Carlisle on Wednesday night and was stretchered off. The club were still waiting to hear the extent of the youngster’s injury.
"We haven’t got the biggest squad in the world and so we can’t make drastic changes," Mullin said.
"There isn’t a big budget and the gaffer can’t call on bringing new players in or buying players due to the finances.
"Everyone knows the situation but we have just to get on with it as we know we have quality players at the club and we can do better."
Mullin admits it is not easy for players like loan youngsters Jamie Clarke, Griffiths and Terry Gornell who have been thrown straight into the side - Griffiths and Gornell have not yet been in a winning side.
"It is tough for them coming into this type of football," said the striker.
"It is totally different to reserves - it is a different tempo and there are no points riding on reserve games and not the same pressures.
"League Two is a lot more hectic and it is hard for them coming into this environment.
"But, due to finances, these are the players the gaffer has to operate with. And they are good players - it is just a different culture to what they are used to.
"They need time to settle but they haven’t got it - we haven’t got a lot of time - and we have just got to get on with it."
However he admits the side will be boosted by the return of midfielder Andy Procter who has started just four games this season but has trained a full week after overcoming a knee injury.
He came through an hour of the goalless reserve clash with Carlisle.
"That will be a big lift for us," said Mullin. "We have missed Procky's legs in midfield - he gets around the pitch and has weighed in with a few goals.
"We have also missed the experience of Leam (Richardson), he has been good for us over the years, and if we can get those two back soon, then I think the squad looks healthier."
Richardson is hoping to overcome a stomach injury soon - although he won’t be fit to face Bradford - while Robbie Williams is suspended tomorrow following his sending off against Barnet.
He will also miss next week’s trip to Luton. Keeper Ian Dunbavin is also sidelined with a groin injury.
Griffiths (ankle) and last week’s goal scorer Colin Murdock (groin) are hoping to shake off injuries.
Meanwhile striker Mullin is also looking at his own scoring record.
He has scored three goals this season but has gone seven game without a goal although he was centimetres off increasing his tally against Barnet in the 2-1 loss on Saturday.
"There were some decent balls played into me in the box and I was not too far from them. But they are just not falling for me at in front of goal - it is indicative of the way things are going for us at the moment - but hopefully they will tomorrow," he said.
"I have had barren spells before -and I am sure this won't be the last - but we know we just need one win to send us on our way."
STANLEY reserves are at home to Morecambe next Wednesday (ko 7pm).