Despite being installed as title-favourites last summer, United are now facing an uphill struggle to reach the League One play-offs after slipping to 12th in the table with only nine games remaining.
Adkins, speaking ahead of today’s meeting with Crewe Alexandra, insisted his squad can still secure a top six finish but acknowledged: “You can turn round and say the present challenge is the most important one. You have to drive on.
“The expectation of getting this great football club back to the next level is so, so high. Again, there are many things.
Maybe we have to go through a bit of pain to get through to where we want to get to. It is just changing things round a bit.”
United, six points behind sixth-placed Barnsley, have struggled for consistency since Adkins’ appointment in June as coaching staff wrestle with a series of issues both on and off the pitch. Last weekend’s defeat by Millwall, which followed an emphatic victory over Oldham Athletic, further highlighted their unpredictable form.
“You need a bit of fortune as well,” Adkins said. “To me, we played better last week against Millwall than we did in beating Oldham the previous week. We had better possession, we had more attacking third entries and more penalty area entries.
“We didn’t score the goal we needed at Millwall and conceded a poor one. We have got to turn performances into results.”
Adkins added: “It is about results. For example, we went to Rochdale recently and, for 70 minutes, no-one can deny the attacking threat we possessed. But we ended up losing the game late on.
“Fleetwood, no-one can argue with the attacking play we had there. A couple of decisions went against us and we drew the game.”