JOHN Hughes has warned that Hartlepool United cannot afford any more “flat” performances if they are to avoid relegation from League One.
The Scot was not happy with his side’s display during Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Doncaster Rovers.
The result brought to a close a seven-game unbeaten run which had peaked during last Tuesday’s impressive 3-0 disposal of Crewe Alexandra.
Hughes, though, believes their weekend effort was “miles away” from that performance and says a repeat against Colchester United tomorrow night is not an option if they are to escape the drop.
“I’ve been into the guys and they know when we’re not at our best,” the Pools boss told SportMail.
“I’m reluctant to be critical of them but I ask - was there the same effort and commitment which was there on Tuesday night?
“Did Tuesday take too much out of them? If I say that it gives them an excuse.
“There cannot be any excuses between now and the end of the season and we can’t afford any more (performances) like that.
“We were miles off what we did on Tuesday when we set a benchmark.
“If we want to stay in this division we have to keep those standards.
“But it was flat and I just felt we didn’t play with the energy we did on Tuesday, which was disappointing.
“Maybe in the cold light of day one or two of them will say ‘I’m better than what I showed there’.
“You can channel that for the next game.”
Hughes will now demand that his players rally ahead of tomorrow’s crunch clash with The U’s.
They were 2-0 winners at Stevenage on Saturday to move two points clear of the drop zone, Pools slipping eight from safety as a result.
Hughes, though, is keen to stress that the fight for survival is still very much alive.
“Let’s not lose sight of where we were at Christmas,” he said, referencing the 15-point deficit in December.
“We’re still giving ourselves a fighting chance but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“Let’s put this result right tomorrow.
“We have to take our lesson from it and regroup - there are no excuses.
“We need to take this on the chin and use the disappointment to go again.”