Dubbo FC player-coach Scott Fox is adamant his side needs to start dominating the ball more if it wants to be a serious contender in the Western Premier League title race.
The Bulls slumped to a 1-0 loss at home to Barnstoneworth United on Saturday and have now scored just one win in the past four rounds.
The recent results have dropped the side back to fifth spot on the ladder at the season's halfway mark.
A perennial contender in both the old and reborn editions of the Western Premier League, the Bulls have struggled to record back-to-back wins this season and Fox said it's largely due to them being unable to enjoy sustained periods of possession.
"We really haven't played our best football. At times we've played quite poorly," he said.
"But, to put a positive spin on it, we're still sitting fourth of fifth and we can only improve.
"The problem is we're giving too much ball to the opposition. Right since round one, we've struggled to put any more than four passes together and seems possession goes backwards rather than going up the field.
"We're all aware of it and it's something we're trying to fix but it's a bit hard at the moment."
Fox can't put his finger on why exactly the side hasn't been able to play the kind of flowing football many in Dubbo and the western area have become accustomed to, but rediscovering it has been a regular topic of conversation at training and on gamedays.
It's going to be the focus again this week ahead of Saturday's challenging trip to Bathurst to take on unbeaten competition leaders Panorama FC.
Fox isn't putting a huge amount of emphasis on the clash with the Goats as he's more focused on getting his side's style of football right at this stage of the season.
"We're going there to win obviously but the main focus for us is to start playing better," he said.
"If we win that's good and positive but I don't want to win ugly. If we want to give this competition a shake we need to start playing better football.
"Grinding games out and winning ugly has to be a trait for us but we need to stop relying on it. We need to start keeping more possession and making opposition defences work harder, that's the real focus this weekend regardless of the result.
"That's the focus the next two or three weeks and if the boys can fix that, the result will follow."
The Bulls struggled to create meaningful chances for the front three of Gareth Williams, Alex Richardson-Bell and Brody Austin on Saturday and Barnies made them pay as Grant Koch scored the only goal of the day.
The win helped Barnstoneworth leapfrog Bulls into fourth spot on the ladder and the Dubbo side is now just one points clear of sixth-placed Parkes.
"Disappointing is the best way to describe it," Fox said of Saturday's loss.
"I think it was a really important game considering where we both were on the table and now we're back in the pack a bit.
"We really wanted to get a result in that one. It's halfway through the season and we're still sitting okay but we're hoping for a bit better in the second half.
"I think we've played our worst for this season and we're fourth or fifth on the ladder. The challenge now is to keep getting better. We have to be better, we know that."
Panorama played out a gripping 2-all draw with derby rivals Bathurst 75 on Saturday and those two sides, along with Orange Waratahs, have set the standard during the first half of the 2022 campaign.
The top three have been consistent performers while the Bulls' most recent three results before Saturday's loss were a 3-all draw with Parkes, a 5-3 win over Mudgee and a 7-0 hammering at the hands of Waratahs.
"To be honest, we're not at their level right at the moment but we're not far off," Fox said.
"There's little things we need to change and if we can do that we'll be fine and we can give it a shake.
"We've still got some great goal scorers in the team at the front. Gareth, Alex and Brody have been there and done it for years, we've just got to work out how to get the ball to them.
"Even in seasons where we've won the comp we've still copped 5-0 or 6-0 hidings. The results aren't worrying me as much and I don't think they're worrying the boys. The bad results are water off the back and we just look forward."
Fellow Dubbo sides Orana Spurs and Macquarie United also missed out on victories on the weekend.
Both sides played Orange CYMS, who had to play a catch-up match. Spurs drew 0-0 with CYMS on Saturday evening in the second match of an Apex Oval double-header before Macquarie United made the trip to Orange on Sunday and played out a 1-1 draw.
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