PREVIEW: Bristol City vs Burnley
COLE Skuse insists there is no good reason why Bristol City's players should allow their lowly position in the npower Championship to affect them adversely.
Given that the Robins have spent much of the previous two seasons fighting relegation, a recent five-match sequence without a win could easily be construed as cause for concern.
Back-to-back defeats at Leicester and Bolton have seen City slip to within one place and two points of the bottom three and the club's supporters could be excused for feeling a nagging sense of deja-vu.
Although midfield powerhouse Skuse accepts he and his team-mates must improve their on-field performance, beginning with tonight's home game against Burnley, if they are to avoid a repeat of last season's struggles, he dismisses suggestions that City are no further on than a year ago
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The Bristolian, pictured, said: "This is not a case of here we go again. It may appear that way to people outside of the club, but I can assure you things are very different to this time last year.
"Back then we were bottom of the table and struggling. We were being pumped three, four and five in some games and were struggling to compete.
"That is certainly not the case this season, despite recent results. We have a much better-balanced squad, have made some excellent signings and have a manager and staff who leave no stone unturned in their analysis of training and the opposition.
"Unfortunately, the margins between success and failure in the Championship are so fine and we are just falling short at the moment.
"We are being punished for individual mistakes and we know we have to defend better as a collective unit. We are scoring a lot of goals, but we are letting in even more and that is costing us. It is so frustrating, because we can all see the strides we are making and well all realise just how close we are to getting it right."
Circumstances may have changed for the better in recent months, but the fact remains Skuse and Co urgently need to pick up points from back-to-back home games against the Clarets and Hull, who visit Ashton Gate on Saturday, if they are to alleviate the pressure that has been steadily growing since they last won a match at Peterborough more than a month ago.
Confidence is a key factor in professional sport and Skuse insists now is not the time for recrimination and doubt.
He told The Post: "Of course there is pressure, but we will not allow the situation to get to us.
"We know things are better than they were before and that we have the players capable of turning our season around. It is important we all stand together and keep faith in what we are doing.
"Those people who watch us regularly can see the improvements we have made and can see that we are more competitive. We are carrying a greater goal threat and we just need to find a way to shut the back door.
"The defence has come in for criticism, but I thought they were outstanding at Bolton on Saturday. It was other players making the mistakes and we have to work harder to improve in those areas. We know what the problem is and we have to put it right ourselves. Now it is up to the rest of us to make sure that, when Steven Davies scores two goals in a game,we get all three points. This is a big week for the football club and we know results are all that matter. We have two home games in four days and it is all about the points rather than performances."