Dave Jones admitted Hartlepool United found it impossible to combat a "team on a roll" when they lost to promotion favourites Portsmouth.
Pools suffered their third defeat in a row and their second successive 2-0 home loss to leave them just five points above the drop zone.
The home side were sunk by former Pools loan man Kal Naismith at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
The Scot, who spent two months at Pools last season, smacked home his 11th goal of the season and his third in the last three games to give Pompey a 17th-minute lead.
And Naismith set up sub Gary Roberts to score the decisive second on the hour after Pools lost possession 30 yards from their goal.
“They are an established team with some really experienced players,” said Jones.
“Their budget is probably three times ours, but we’ve matched them for most of the game.
“They are on a roll, and it’s hard to stop teams on a roll in their tracks.
"It was just mistakes that cost us dearly.
“That’s why we are where we are, and we need to learn pretty quick.
"But the players have worked hard, put a shift in and we have come up against a very strong team."
Pools dropped a place to 22nd after this set-back and with Newport beating Crawley 1-0, the difference is now just five points to County in 23rd.
"The key now is that we just get ourselves safe and then we can build something here."