Ronnie Moore insists Hartlepool United must “man up” or face the prospect of more disappointments.
The frustrated boss accused his team of showing a “soft centre” as Pools lost the lead twice at home to Carlisle United on Saturday en route to a 3-2 League Two defeat.
Moore said Pools allowed themselves to be bullied and cannot allow any repeat showings as they prepare for two demanding tests this week.
Pools host Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tomorrow night at Victoria Park before visiting in-form Wycombe in the league on Saturday.
Moore was just frustrated by the fact his team lost at home in the league for the first time this season, it was the manner of the defeat.
“We have to man up, no doubt about it,” he said.
“These are the games you need men – we were too brittle at the back.
“Clean sheets are so important.
“We started the season with clean sheets but at this time now, we can’t buy one.
“We were bullied (on Saturday) and that’s the disappointing thing for me.
“We were on the back foot because we couldn’t win our headers.
“It reminded me of last season, when I first came here, giving goals away, teams not even having to work for them.
“I’d felt we got over that soft-centred period, but we were soft.
“We need to go back to the drawing board on defending set-plays.”
Pools could easily have added to their goal tally on Saturday, so it’s not doom and gloom by any means – they are having their fair share of chances.
But the fear for Moore is that Carlisle wasted several gilt-edged opportunities of their own.
“If we think Carlisle are physical, just wait til other sides come here, he said.
“Other teams will be bigger than them.
“Ibehre bullied us, we allowed him to push us back when it should be the other way round.
“Centre-halves should shove him, kick him, do what they need to do to push him back, not let him dominate.
“Every time they had a long throw, I thought they were going to score.
“We need people to be big and brave from long throws.
“If we don’t man up and do the right things then we will be in trouble.”
Pools led from the sixth minute, ex-Sunderland defender Scott Harrison firing home left-footed from 16 yards, but Carlisle rallied strongly and levelled on 57 minutes, Jabo Ibehre heading home Kennedy’s cross from eight yards.
Pools were back in front when skipper Blly Paynter converted a 70th-minute penalty, after Kennedy held Scott Fenwick from a set-piece.
But Tom Miller’s cross-cum-shot equalised six minutes later, then Ibehre sidefooted home Carlisle’s late winner from inside the six-yard box.
Midfielder Carl Magnay is a doubt for tomorrow after coming off at half-time after taking a “whack”.
On the plus side, Harry Worley has recovered from injury and will almost certainly return to the starting XI against an on-song Blades who are also likely to make changes for the 7pm Victoria Park showdown.
Defender Dan Jones is set for his opening appearance of the season, while Ebby Nelson-Addy and Scott Fenwick are likely starters and Kudus Oyenuga is in contention for his first competitive appearance.
“I will tinker,” confirmed Moore. “I need to look at one or two players, so that side who played on Saturday won’t play in the cup.”
Hartlepool: Bartlett, Duckworth, Harrison, Boyce, Carroll, Woods, Featherstone, Magnay (Nelson-Addy 46), Bingham, Paynter, Oates (Fenwick 63). Subs not used: Worley, Oyenuga, Jones, Smith, Denton. Goals: Harrison 6, Paynter 70 pen
Carlisle: Gillespie, Miller, Archibald-Henville, Raynes, McQueen (Thompson 77), Kennedy, Joyce, Hery (Dicker 87), Grainger, Ibehre, Rigg (Asamoah 68). Subs not used: Brough, Sweeney, Hanford, Balanta. Booked: Miller, Rigg, Ibehre, Archibald-Henville, Kennedy. Goals: Ibehre 57 & 84, Miller 76
Att: 4,935. Ref: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).