PORT Adelaide is "spooked" and struggling to deal with the expectations placed upon it this season, according to coach Ken Hinkley.
The Power's poor season reached a new low on Saturday, as they lost to bottom-placed Carlton by four points at the MCG after falling 29 points in arrears in the last term.
Watch the last two minutes: Carlton v Port Adelaide
The defeat leaves the club precariously placed in the bottom half of the ladder with five wins after 12 games, and all but out of reach of the top four.
After almost clinching a Grand Final spot last year, many had tipped the Power for this year's flag.
But Hinkley said the team's confidence had dissipated to the extent his players are "frightened" to make a mistake and are worrying too much about the consequences of an error.
"It's a four-quarter game and you've got to play the whole of those four quarters. We're just not a team that's prepared to play the whole of those four quarters at the moment for the most part of this year," Hinkley said.
"It's a team not believing. It's a team that is unsure about what's going to happen to them next. They've definitely lost their composure and their confidence with the ball in hand.
"They're playing a little bit spooked, unfortunately. That comes when you're second-guessing how you're going to play."
Click here to watch Hinkley's full post-match press conference
While admitting there is "no quick fix" to the club's problems, he is confident everyone at Port will work to address the issues in the second half of the season.
Hinkley also noted how quickly a team can go from being off its game to a challenger again, and hoped the club could rebound after its bye next week.
He said when parts of games go against the Power he can sense players are "feeling the heat", and conceded the expectations put on the Power this season as being ripe for the premiership were taking a toll on the group.
"Clearly it looks like that from the outside. I would say clearly that's one of the issues. The pressure keeps building," he said.
"Each week for us it's about 'you have to get this game, you have to get that game', because if you're going to be 'this team', you have to win.
"That keeps building. It's layer upon layer upon layer. It gets heavy, it gets really heavy, and that's what the side's struggling with."
The Power charged home in the last term and booted five final-quarter goals, and could have had another shot with a minute to go when Sam Colquhoun marked inside-50.
One umpire paid the mark and another signaled it was touched, so a ball-up was called and Port's opportunity was gone.
Hinkley said that key moment was "disappointing" but refused to use the decision or the loss of star midfielder Robbie Gray after half-time as an excuse for the defeat.
Gray had gathered 15 disposals and had eight clearances before the main break when he was slammed into the ground by Carlton's Bryce Gibbs, and taken from a stretcher.
He was judged as being fine to resume playing but was substituted out of the game in the third term when a replay suggested to the Power medicos he had been slightly concussed in the incident.
"It's an unfortunate thing that happens in the game of footy. The intent to tackle was just to tackle and wrap him up," Hinkley said.
"The unfortunate part is on the follow through he hits his head on the ground. I'm not sure how you can help that. It was disappointing to lose Robbie, though, because he was playing fairly good footy at that stage."