Paul Cook warned Portsmouth they need to wise up to get their promotion bid back on track.
The Blues boss has aired concerns about his players’ inability to adapt the way they are playing in matches to pick up success.
And he feels improvements have to be made to his team’s ‘game management’ as the campaign reaches its climax.
A comprehensive defeat to Newport County was a bitter pill to swallow on Saturday – after the high of beating promotion rivals Accrington Stanley last week.
Cook was clear about where the problems arrived against the Exiles in the first half as his team stalled.
Pompey too often chose to play in congested areas in the middle of the park, against the diamond formation employed by Warren Feeney’s side.
Staff have discussed the matter with the players this week at the club’s training ground, as preparations are made for Saturday’s trip to Mansfield Town.
Now Cook wants his players to show the shrewdness needed to better handle the ebb and flow of games.
Cook said: “On Saturday, we couldn’t manage the game or the way they played.
“I don’t think we are smart enough at the minute. We don’t manage games well.
“We try to pass through people and there were people occupying those areas. That’s why we struggled.
“Game management is the phrase at the moment.
“We are not bright enough to identify a game and the way we need to play.
“Yes, we’re a team who’s played 36 games, so we won’t have a tick in every box.
“We’ve offered great encouragement to our supporters last week against Accrington but we fell flat against Newport.
“You could see what needed to change after 10 minutes on Saturday.
“If I could have stopped the game at that point I would have done that.
“We have to change the way we play within that 10-minute spell.’
Cook was concerned to see Pompey return to the more negative elements of their play shown against Barnet and Yeovil last month.
That, for the 49-year-old, includes an over-reliance on the undoubted ability which exists within the squad’s ranks.
It’s a subject the Blues manager has returned to on more than one occasion in recent weeks.
Now, there is little room for manoeuvre with just 10 games remaining this season.
Cook said: “We think this is the way we play and that’s it. It was like the games against Barnet and Yeovil.
“We think we’re good enough but we fell on our sword. Sometimes you can’t just rely on your quality to pull you through.
“We couldn’t occupy the right areas and that’s why we lost. That’s something we will look at because we need to get it right.”