Michael Woods has warned his Hartlepool United teammates to cut out the “comical” defending - or face another relegation battle.
The fit-again 25-year-old midfield schemer played 75 minutes in the 5-3 defeat to Gateshead at the International Stadium.
If we play like that in two weeks time [when the League Two campaign kicks off], we will be bottom of the league in no timeMichael Woods
It meant back-to-back defeats for Ronnie Moore’s side and Woods slammed the defending, warning places are still very much up for grabs.
Woods captained Pools against the National League outfit and the visitors looked well placed to go on and win the game after Rakish Bingham completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute.
But more defensive howlers from Pools let Heed back in, the hosts going on to seal a resounding win.
Strong words were said in the dressing room afterwards and Woods admits the players are fully aware it cannot continue.
Woods said: “You have to build the foundations at the back and to concede nine goals in two games is nowhere near good enough.
“To score three goals away from home, you should be winning the game - at any level.
“If we defend like that again, we will be in trouble.
“It is not just the back three or five, it is the whole team and we have to be better at it, some of the goals were comical.
“It may only be pre-season but it wasn’t good enough and some of the lads had a go afterwards.
“There is only so long you can say it is pre-season.
“If we play like that in two weeks time [when the League Two campaign kicks off], we will be bottom of the league in no time.
“It was a bit of a reality trip, I guess.
“There has been a lot of hype, we have beaten who we should have been beating and we should have beaten Gateshead too.”
Moore kept his players behind in the aftermath of the Heed defeat and Woods revealed they would be forced to sit through the goals again.
He added: “We will have a look through the goals on the DVD.
“It was schoolboy stuff, whether it is people not knowing their roles or just being sloppy, it has to improve.
“Nobody’s place is certain, especially after performances like that.”
The former Chelsea and Leeds United youth had been out since February after dislocating his ankle and fracturing his fibula in a league game against Wimbledon.
“It felt like a long time coming, even though people were telling me it has flown by,” added Woods, who was making his first start in six months.
“First and foremost you want to get a result.
“It may only be pre-season but you want to set a marker down.
“The result was very disappointing.”