Alan Auld has urged his Macquarie United FC side to "work for it" when they face Orana Spurs this Sunday.
The Blues got over Spurs in the Challenge Cup final after going through the tournament undefeated, but have struggled to rediscover that preseason form.
Since the season proper started they've let in nine goals in three games, compared to the 11 they conceded in the entire 2018 regular season.
The coach said their most recent result - a 4-0 loss at the hands of defending premiers Dubbo FC Bulls - was a "reality check".
"I think they understood that at half time against Bulls I wasn't happy," Auld said.
"A lot of clubs kind of think that us and Bulls are a benchmark but we haven't been playing at the standard that I expect of this team.
"I told them they needed to have a look at themselves and take a bit of pride in the shirt."
Auld lamented a number of injuries which has tested the club's depth, and admitted they were failing to convert a lot of chances.
He blamed the players' mindsets, but was "confident" they were starting to turn things around.
"I think that they are going out there and expecting that they should win and it's not the right mindset," Auld said.
"I'm confident that the guys will be in the right frame of mind [this weekend].
"I'm not overly confident that we'll actually win, but i believe that they've had time to reflect."
The disrupted start to the season - with general byes for Easter and last weekend's youth competition - has affected the side, but Auld acknowledged every team faced the same challenge finding continuity and momentum.
He said a number of players were still finding their feet - Macquarie picked half a dozen new players this season - including "probably the fastest player in the competition" Will Grant.
"Grant ... can be really explosive when he wants to be, he's just lacking a bit of confidence at the moment," Auld said.
"But I'm sure a good performance is only around the corner."
He's also hoping to see more out of Glen Schien and Evan Goodstat.
"[Schien] was our go-to player last year, he was actually stepping up so I'm expecting bigger things from him moving forward," Auld said.
"And I'm really impressed with ... Evan Goodstat. He's the oldest in the team but is work rate is really good."
He had no doubt Sunday's contest against Orana Spurs would bring the best out of both sides.
"There's always a bit in it, a bit of feeling and both quality teams," Auld said.
Sunday's game kicks off at 3pm while in the other games, Dubbo FC play Newtown Saints and South Dubbo Wanderers face Westside.