Game after game, you watch helplessly as opportunities are spurned by your team-mates. The importance of not conceding is heightened with every chance missed. The pressure on you not to make a mistake is increased. Consequently, you are on edge. Your concentration wavers. You slip. One chance, 1-0 down. Without the means to retrieve the deficit, defeat beckons.
Dave McCracken might recognise the situation, but the St Johnstone defender refused to entertain it in the aftermath of his side's William Hill Scottish Cup defeat in Paisley on Saturday. "Strikers missing chances doesn't affect us," he said, baulking at suggestions that he and his defensive colleagues might be feeling the burden of the Perth side's profligacy. "We've got to do our jobs as well because if we don't concede, we don't lose."
His logic might be beyond reproach but his insistence is not. Manager Steve Lomas spoke about the return of his side's "Achilles' heel" and "the same old record", diverting from the familiar theme only to briefly bemoan the "shambolic defending" that led to the concession of two goals and caused their cup exit. The Northern Irishman appreciates the difficulties wastefulness is causing St Johnstone, suggesting they would be second in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League were Rowan Vine, Steven MacLean and Gregory Tade more ruthless in front of goal.
Ruthless in the manner of Esmael Goncalves, perhaps.
Let's imagine another scenario. You play for a team boasting a striker in form. A man who has scored two in his first two games for the club. After a goalless first half during which you might have gone behind had your opponents been a little sharper, he opens the scoring. The tension eases around the ground. You can relax. Then he scores again. Victory is secure.
That goalscorer is Goncalves, who now has four in three games for St Mirren. Suddenly, a team who appeared nervous whenever they were put under pressure are emboldened by the belief and confidence that scoring goals and winning matches brings. In the space of six days, Danny Lennon's side have earned a place in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup, revived their hopes of a top-six finish and, with this triumph, moved in to the last eight of the Scottish Cup.
They have, as their manager stated afterwards, discovered another gear.
On Saturday, they were excellent in spells. Corruscating in attack, tidy in midfield and relatively resolute at the back, even if they did struggle at times to quell St Johnstone's direct approach. They could, however, rely on goalkeeper Craig Samson to make several splendid saves and ensure a first clean sheet in 10 games. "We owed that to Sammy," said captain Jim Goodwin. "The last few games we've given away stupid penalties and he has dug us out of so many holes; even today he's made two or three great saves and he's been an absolute star for us."
So too, though, has Goncalves. Lennon warned afterwards that the Portuguese will improve once he sheds a few pounds but "the big man" was almost unplayable at times, using his powerful physique and deceptive speed to create openings he capitalised upon with unerring accuracy. "You see some high-profile signings down south who take time to settle but the big man has taken to the SPL like a duck to water," said Goodwin. "He's so direct and, as a defender, you hate that because he is going to run at you but you don't know if he is going inside or outside. He's a nightmare to play against, but great to have."