Southend United boss Paul Sturrock is worried the distraction of next month's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final is causing his side's erratic form.
The Shrimpers have slipped off the play-off pace after winning only two of their last eight League Two matches.
Following Tuesday's 2-0 home defeat against Plymouth, Sturrock said: "Is the cup final playing on their minds?
"I'd like to think it wasn't but they look jaded and their heads were down very quickly. It's soul destroying."
But Sturrock, whose team will face Crewe at Wembley on 7 April, revealed that he let the players discuss the Argyle defeat rather than vent his feelings.
He explained: "Sometimes they hear the manager ranting and raving [too much].
"I'm just hoping some home truths come out and they can get to the bottom of what they think is the problem.
"Whether they think they're over-trained, under-trained, or lacking this or lacking that - I think a lot of it will be excuses - it's vitally important we work it out as quickly as possible.
"Our season is fizzling out as we speak. The cup final is a distance away. It's important to get a confidence boost of some sort."