MARK Ashford is certainly not a manager who will “sugar coat” unpalatable truths for his players and Witham Town’s have been told in no uncertain terms that they need to step up their game.

The Witham boss has been bitterly disappointed by back-to-back Bostik League division north defeats for his team that have seen them beaten 2-0 by Tilbury and 5-2 at Bury Town in the last week.

Ashford said the results needed to be a wake-up call for his players ahead of a trip to face the league leaders – Bowers & Pitsea – on Saturday.

It may have been a hard thing for him to admit but he said his team needed to step up their game from the first whistle, especially when not in possession of the football.

He said: “I was really affected by what happened against Tilbury last weekend because I take my responsibilities as manager and custodian of the Witham team really seriously.

“I feel I reflect the club and the players on the pitch reflect me but I was really unhappy with what I saw on Saturday.

“I took it really hard and did a lot of soul searching on Sunday.

“So I expected a reaction at Bury and to see the first half when we just did not compete is just unacceptable.

“Players have said to me that some feel we have done enough to be clear of relegation, but my thought from that is we haven’t and we can be caught very quickly.

“And more importantly than that, if we have a dressing room that is just happy to be free from relegation then I’ll need to find different players.

“I need players who will constantly strive to improve and get further up the table.

“We didn’t have that at Bury.

“I deliberately didn’t put any subs on because I wanted the starting 11 to be accountable for the whole game.

“By rights I should have put them on because they wanted to come on, but I really wanted the 11 to walk off the pitch at the end and be accountable for what had gone on.

“I hope they had a big tear-up in the dressing room afterwards because perhaps the dressing room needs to get a bit angrier and a bit nastier.

“There needs to be some soul searching and they need to be as honest with themselves as I am with myself.

“They need to show they are caring because no team of mine will be acceptable for them to turn up as we did in that first half at Bury.

“I have to go away and look at myself as well and ask why it is happening.

“Maldon was the last game where we really turned up from the first whistle and several results have glossed over the fact that we haven’t been right in the first half.

“As a manager who takes a lot of pride in what he does, I have to hold myself accountable.

“They are not doing what they should be doing and therefore that’s my responsibility and I’m taking it quite hard at the moment.

“People may say ‘look where we’ve come from’ but that’s not good enough for me.

“You can’t look back, you have to look forward.

“Our template for winning games is that we have to work hard to get what we do and we have to give everything and everyone has to put their heart and soul into it.

“It’s hard as a manager to see other teams work harder than yours when they don’t have the ball.

“It’s a horrible to thing to aim at your team but it’s the truth.

“I’m never going to be a manager who will sugar coat it; I’m honest when we win and I’m honest when we lose.

“It’s not fair to supporters and people who follow the club if you’re not.

“We were not good enough at Bury because we weren’t good enough in the first half and we have to find that fight and desire very quickly.

“I believe in this group and they’ve shown that they are very good but we can’t keep doing that.”