DOUGIE Freedman suggests that his Wanderers players will have to win a battle in their own heads before doing it on the pitch against Watford tomorrow.
It is nine games and two months since the Whites boss was able to reflect on a Championship win – and he admits that unwanted run has taken its toll on confidence levels within the squad.
A case in point came at The Den last weekend when a missed penalty by Lukas Jutkiewicz at 1-0 up served to inspire Millwall to mount a late surge to grab a point, and nearly three.
The penalty miss and the two dropped points rather overshadowed what had been an impressively gritty defensive performance, and Freedman picked out David Wheater and Matt Mills at the heart of the defence as two players who are pointing the way at present.
But while the manager’s critics may not necessarily share his view, Freedman is convinced the current winless run will change, if his players can hold their nerve against the Hornets.
“We’re slowly getting points and picking up draws but to get that win I honestly think we’ve just got to believe in what we’re doing and things will change,” he said.
“I have been in this position as a player and as a manager and you just need to get through a couple of results and all that stuff you’ve built up underneath, all those hard-working days, will keep you going. We were very comfortable against Millwall but because of that penalty miss, they get the energy to go and throw everything at us.
“I felt a bit sorry for Wheats and Millsy, because they had been excellent.
“It is tough for everyone at the moment but I honestly believe that the players are fully focussed on what they are doing. I honestly think a win is just around the corner because of the way we’re playing.
“I look at when we played against Burnley – second in the league – and then Millwall at The Den, and we matched them. We were very unlucky not to take maximum points from both games.
“I’m not scratching my head wondering where the next win will come from; I know we’ll start the game well, I know we’ll come fast out of the traps.
“But what I need is that when we go in front, or when it’s 0-0, we need to keep ourselves in the game. When we go 1-0 up, we need to keep it.”
Who exactly would step up and take a penalty if one were won tomorrow is an interesting matter – with eight different players assuming duties since the Whites dropped into the Championship.
Keith Andrews, Marvin Sordell, David Ngog, Martin Petrov and Craig Davies – who all boast 100 per cent records – are no longer playing at the club, while Andre Moritz is unlikely to be fit.
Chris Eagles has missed both of his opportunities, while Jutkiewicz became the latest man to fluff his lines from 12 yards at The Den last weekend.
Freedman took pride in being a penalty taker during his playing career – but admits the jitters can hit the best of players, as witnessed by Mesut Ozil’s costly miss for Arsenal against Bayern Munich in midweek.
“They are not difficult to score from a technical point of view, more mentally,” he said.
“We were all watching Mesut Ozil the other night, up against the Munich goalkeeper, who is his friend, and knowing it could go either way.
“I took penalties as a player and I do think they are in the mind. But it’s easy saying that from here.”
Freedman was happy to talk mind games from the penalty spot but less so when quizzed on Ian Holloway’s comments after last weekend’s game at Millwall.
The Lions boss, who played with Freedman at QPR when the Scot was cutting his teeth in the game, said he was “bored senseless” by Wanderers’ style of play.
But it was an argument that the Whites boss refused to get involved in.
“I’m not going to comment on that one at all – I don’t get myself involved,” he said. “I’ve known Ollie (Holloway) a long, long time but I’m fully focussed on what Bolton are doing this weekend.”