When quizzed about what has gone wrong for Dundee United since the turn of the year, Mark Connolly takes his time to think of the right words.
After some pondering, he lands on ‘a lack of confidence’.
On the face of things, it’s a strange choice given their position 18 points clear at the top of the Championship.
Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes clear what the centre-half is getting at.
A 2-0 defeat at Dunfermline on Saturday means the Terrors have won only one of their last five league games and haven’t really looked themselves in 2020 – barring a 4-1 win over bottom side Partick Thistle in early January.
Some have accused United of taking the foot off the gas in their quest to seal the title, others have questioned tactics, team selection and individual players’ ability.
However, Connolly feels their problems are simply down to a lack of self-belief but is backing them to put things right at Ayr United tonight.
“It’s a tough one but it’s not a lack of desire,” the 28-year-old said when asked about their recent dip.
“The way the boys train and the way we approach things every single week is exactly the same.
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“It’s probably more a lack of confidence at times.
“Football is a tough game. It’s a long season and, in leagues like this, you’re never going to be unbelievable in every single game.
“That’s where the character comes in and how you react to it, turning negatives into positives.
“It’s human to suffer a lack of confidence. Whether you miss a chance or a tackle, belief can be low and sometimes it has crept in.
“The biggest thing we’ve shown is we always bounce back – that’s all we can do between now and the end of the season.”
On their hopes of sealing the title as soon as possible, the Irishman added: “Once something happens and it’s officially done, that’s it.
“We take every game as it comes and we need to let the Dunfermline game hurt us and go for it in a big game tonight.
“You’re a professional footballer and that’s what you want, to rectify your mistakes and what went wrong. I think if you dwell on it and let it affect you, that’s when it becomes a problem.
“As a team, the way we’ve done it this season, we’ve reacted well and Ayr is no different.
“We need to make sure we fight for everything not just play nice football. All over the park we need to win battles.
“There are still 10 games left for us and Ayr have got quite a hectic period coming up, so it’s another big game.
“It’s going to be tough, we know that. Every time the team has went down there it’s been a tough game, so we’re expecting nothing less than what we’ve always had. We’ve got to be up for it and address how it was on Saturday.
“We know we need to be on it.
“We’ve got to knuckle down and fight for the results. This is the business end of the season where we need to get points on the board, whatever way that may be.
“I don’t think people care about how you play, it’s about the results.”
Connolly, stand-in captain against the Pars, also apologised to the 2,490 Arabs who made the trip to see their side slump to defeat.
“We’re bitterly disappointed for them. The fans have come in their numbers all season and we’re hurting, so we know they will be as well.
“For them to come to Dunfermline in huge numbers, all we can say is sorry for that result.
“The gaffer mentioned about the fans coming in their numbers again so we knew that. Unfortunately, we just let them down.
“We’ve got a chance to bounce back tonight, which is good for us as a team to get that opportunity.”