Paul Hartley has challenged his Cove Rangers players to show their character and arrest their recent dip in form.
The 1-0 defeat away to Dumbarton on Saturday marked the fourth game in a row without victory for Cove, an uncharacteristic run for a team used to winning.
Nat Wedderburn’s header shortly after half-time was all that separated the two sides, with Sons goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski making a number of key saves to keep the visitors at bay.
Cove still remain in the top three, but their run of results is posing a few questions to the squad.
Hartley said: “It’s frustrating and disappointing and we’re going through a mini-blip just now. It’s a little challenge for the players – they’re not used to this.
“You get done 1-0 having created all the chances, but if you don’t keep the door shut at the other end you can always lose it.
“It’s a challenge for everybody. It’s about showing your character now to get out of the wee run that we’re on.
“Nobody has outplayed us yet. We’ve faced eight of the nine teams and more than held our own. We’ve dominated some games, but it’s a league where you get punished if you don’t do the basics well.
“Teams will slip up, but we just need to find a bit more consistency to our game.”
Cove started the season with four straight wins and were sitting top, prior to this slump. They play the final game of the first round of fixtures next Saturday at home to Clyde.
They travelled to Dumbarton without strikers Mitch Megginson and Rory McAllister, both of whom are nursing hamstring issues. Megginson has a chance to return for the weekend, but McAllister is likely to face a fortnight out.
Dabrowski kept Jamie Masson, Dan Higgins and Leighton McIntosh at bay in a 10-minute first-half spell, with Jaime Wilson having Dumbarton’s only real opportunity at the other end.
The decisive moment came five minutes after the interval from Ross Forbes’ free-kick, with Wedderburn escaping his marker to plant a header beyond Stuart McKenzie.
Cove pressed for a leveller, with Masson having an opportunity from a free-kick before a late save from Dabrowski tipped a header from McIntosh on to the post.
Hartley added: “I didn’t think we got to grips with it in the first half, but we still had really good opportunities in the first period. It wasn’t until we lost a goal, in the last 30 minutes, where we controlled the game.
“We had some unbelievable chances, but just didn’t take them. We didn’t defend the set-piece well – we knew (Ross) Forbes was a danger from set-pieces and we didn’t pick up (Nat) Wedderburn.
“The keeper has made two unbelievable saves in the first half, we’ve hit the post and had other opportunities. We just weren’t ruthless enough in the final moment.”