Nottingham Forest manager Stuart Pearce says the absence of influential trio Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Jack Hobbs has been a key factor behind their 10-match winless run.
Forest were beaten 3-1 by Brentford at the City Ground on Wednesday, a result which leaves the early-season Championship pacesetters in 11th place.
"We are suffering from the loss of Andy, Chris and Jack," Pearce said.
"That has probably hurt us more than I care to admit."
|Pearce under pressure?|
|"It's crazy. As a club all you want is a bit of consistency and stability. Most of the teams that end up doing well consistently are the teams that stick with people - especially good people like the manager who has the club's best interest at heart - and I am sure the chairman wants to do that."I can see him having a real long reign here. There's no doubt he's the right man. We have some fantastic players and I am sure we will be ok."Forest captain Chris Cohen talking to BBC Radio Nottingham before Wednesday's game about criticism of manager Stuart Pearce|
All three played a vital part in Forest's fine start which saw them top the table after going 11 games without defeat, and Pearce has suggested a lack of leaders and experience has told in recent weeks.
Pearce, who spent 12 years with Forest as a player, also blamed fading confidence and stupid errors for his side's latest loss.
"The penalty we gave away was poor, and the backpass as well," Pearce said. "It erodes the confidence, and with that decent players become nervous players who want to shift the ball from back to front too readily.
"I think a victory solves that, but it seems very elusive at the moment if we keep making those errors.
"We have to roll our sleeves up. I have to put a smile on my face and motivate the squad because everyone at this football club looks at me. I am certainly not one of those people who will back down from a challenge."
Despite the comprehensive defeat and a below-par display, Forest's fans chanted Pearce's name even when the side were 3-0 down.
There were boos at the end of each half but the supporters continued to back the team during the match and hopes of an unlikely comeback were boosted when Michail Antonio scored with a long-range strike.
It failed to materialise but Pearce was pleased with the spirit in the latter stages.
|Nottingham Forest boss Stuart Pearce|
|"The people of Nottingham have been fantastic to me and I can totally understand why there has been some frustration. I care about this football club more than just a job as a manager. I feel part of the terrace culture. This club means a lot to me so defeat hurts."|
"The second-half performance showed me that the players are prepared not to roll over and I think they care. That's the important thing for me," the 52-year-old said.
"The people of Nottingham have been fantastic to me and I can totally understand why there has been some frustration.
"I care about this football club more than just a job as a manager. I feel part of the terrace culture. This club means a lot to me so defeat hurts."
But Pearce is not concerned about his own future working for chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi.
"I never fear losing my job or failure. I never have done in my life," Pearce added. "I have a chairman who has been fantastically supportive of me.
"I believe I am in the infancy of a job here. We have won more games than we have lost but we are on a bad run and we need a victory as soon as we can. Collectively we have to stick together."