Dave Jones believes some of Hartlepool United's players froze in their must-win game at crisis club Leyton Orient.
Dire Pools were humbled by the Football League's bottom team, the young O's side fighting back from going a goal down to win the basement battle 2-1 at Brisbane Road.
Fortunately for Pools, relegation rivals Newport County were blitzed 6-1 at Plymouth, a result which kept Jones's team one point clear of the drop zone with only three games to go.
Pools looked like being on their way to three priceless points when Rhys Oates showed strength and compsure to score his second goal in two games.
But Orient, who fielded only three senior players, hit back with well-taken goals from Victor Adeboyejo and Tristan Abrahams.
“It’s hard to describe," said Jones.
"We knew everything about them – a young team playing with no fear.
"But you have to compete with that, I thought we didn't do that in the first half.
"in the second half we were a little bit better and we had a couple of good chances.
“We go in front, against a young Orient side but they won’t lay down and die.
"We had to match that enthusiasm and in all honesty one of two of them froze today, more than one or two of them."
Pools though had their chances to win it.
Oates and Padraig Amond both missed a quality ball put into the six-yard box by Nathan Thomas and Oates somehow squandered an opportunity with the goal at his mercy in the last minute of normal time.
Jones says the squad was devastated but insists they know what is required.
"We all know in that dressing room what we have to do and where we are, but we just have to do it," said the manager.
And Pools look like having to do it minus Liam Donnelly who was sent off in stoppage time.
Pools were incensed that Dean Whitestone gave a goal-kick when they were convinced it was deflected for a corner.
Donnelly chased after the referee, remonstrating with him and earning a yellow card.
He did not back down and instead squared up to the official, who showed him a second yellow and then the red.
The defender was lucky it was not a straight red.
"What Liam does, I can't bring myself to ask him what he wass doing," said Jones. "I know he's upset, but you can't square up to the referee like that.
"I've not seen anything that for a long time."