Miles Rutherford admits his Chichester City players have become distracted by their FA Cup heroics.
Chi will head to Prenton Park on Sunday, December 1, for their second-round tie after Tranmere Rovers beat Wycombe after extra time in their FA Cup replay on Wednesday night.
The eyes of the nation will be on his side when they attempt a giantkilling live on BT Sport but before then they go to Phoenix Sports tomorrow in BetVictor South East and boss Rutherford is concerned his side have let their standards slip.
City lost 2-0 at Haywards Heath on Tuesday in the Velocity Trophy after a 1-1 home draw against Sittingbourne last Saturday.
And Rutherford admitted the Heath game sounded alarm bells.
He told The Post: “It was awful – we have got the FA Cup blues which we were expecting!
“Last Saturday we were shocking in the first half and improved in the second but on Tuesday night we were way, way, way below par.
“We understand that the players are worried about getting injured and the like but we are trying to get across to them that Saturday is a big game for us.
“Tuesday night was a nothing game – it didn’t matter if we won 20-0 or lost 20-0 as neither us nor Haywards Heath is going any further in the competition – but Saturday really does.
“We are trying to get across to the players that you cannot play as bad as we have since the last FA Cup game and then just turn it on.
“We have got to buck our ideas up for Saturday and get going again. I know it’s hard as everyone is concentrating on the FA Cup and I get that.
“It’s annoying but what can you expect from people – it’s the biggest game they will ever play in.”
Rutherford warned: “If we get beat on Saturday, after the FA Cup we have a mountain to climb.
“But if we get a result on Saturday, then we can go into the FA Cup on a high and after that we can concentrate on the league again.
“It’s a big game for all sorts of different reasons. Players are playing for their places, we need the points and Phoenix are going well at the moment and we need to be testing ourselves.
“We need to get the fitness levels up and players are not putting the full effort in.”
Rutherford and the players kept tabs on Tranmere’s Cup replay success but the boss said they were in a no-lose situation.
He said: “It didn’t matter to us as we’re just happy to be playing a League One club.
“We are a proper non-league side, miles below some of the sides in the competition still and, for a side that was playing County League football last year, it’s almost unheard of to be here.
“We’re not a club spending lots of money and trying to move up leagues. We probably weren’t the best side last year in the league but we were the most consistent.
“This year we’re doing it again. We’ve been consistent apart from the few weeks with the Cup where we’ve let our standards drop.”
Thomas Fagg gave Sittingbourne a 34th-minute lead last Saturday after a skilful, twisting run into the area.
Skipper Connor Cody got a 58th-minute leveller with a firm finish. Matt Axell had a penalty saved as Chi missed the chance to snatch all three points.
Rutherford added: “The first half was so bad but we did pick up and credit to the players, they actually put some effort in for the second half.
“But I am just a little bit worried by the effort the players are putting in over the last couple of games. You cannot turn it on and off just like that.
“I want the work-rate to be up a lot more than it has been in the past couple of games.”
Chi will host Lewes in the Senior Cup third round.