Nigel Adkins is ready to wield the axe unless his players toughen-up.
Adkins issued the thinly-veiled threat after watching Port Vale condemn them to a third defeat in six games.
Insisting injuries to David Edgar and Ryan Flynn will not prompt a hasty revision of the club’s emergency loan targets, he told The Star: “We know where we are. We’ve got a group which has been together for some time now and we need to get to the next level.
“We work hard in the week but matchdays are where you are measured. We’ve got to be assertive and aggressive from here on in. Mentally and physically, you’ve got to win your one on one duels all the way through the game. You’ve also got to be assertive with the football. Use it quickly and calmly.”
Adkins added: “I’m not one who will publicly castigate players. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
“There will be thinking time and then we go again. I look after the players a lot.
“I give them opportunities, long opportunities as well. But we’ve got to get up and get up this season.
“Over the course of the next few days I’ll take stock of everybody, all of us, because emotions after a game can make that difficult. We’ll do it in a calm manner. We won’t hide away from anything, you know that. We’ll do what we think is best for the football club in the next game and the one after that.”
United, who slip to seventh in the table, saw Byron Moore and Uche Ikpeazu give 2-0 lead at the break before substitute Matt Done scored a consolsation in stoppage time.
Adkins, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie against Notts County, said: “You’’ll gather I’m trying to use my words sensibly because I’ve got to pick everyone up and get ready to go again. It turned on small margins, yes, but that is what the game is about, small margins. It’s very disappointing not to win a game of football that, for the first 15 minutes with the space between the lines, was all set-up for us to go and dominate. I’m here, it’s my responsibility. I want us to get promoted this season and promoted via the top two.”