Ryan Lowe has warned his Plymouth Argyle players they must learn from their mistakes, and fast, otherwise the Pilgrims will find themselves on a slippery slope.
Argyle trailed by three goals after an injury-delayed 64-minute first half, and all of the goals were eminently preventable.
Lowe has seen his side lose their last three league games, conceding 10 goals and only scoring once.
The result against Rochdale was a sobering one, especially coming so soon after a 5-1 defeat away to Fleetwood Town on November 21.
Lowe said: “I didn’t see my team there, what we are built on and how we play, especially in the first half.
“It wasn’t good enough, nowhere near. But what we have to do is we have to put it to bed quickly.
“We will be in tomorrow to analyse it and put the wrongs to right.
“We have got a good group but they need to learn fast because if you don’t you could end up on a slippery slope, and that’s what we don’t want to be.”
Lowe added: “The game was won in both boxes. I think we had 18 shots and two on target.
“I don’t know how many they had, but they scored four goals, and they were definitely avoidable on our part.
“I won’t sit here and slag the boys off but they have to take responsibility for that performance.”
Argyle conceded their first goal in only the third minute when defender Kell Watts was caught out of position and Jake Beesley raced clear.
Beesley took the ball around goalkeeper Mike Cooper before hitting the ball towards the empty net.
Watts, the on-loan Newcastle United defender, tried to make a sliding clearance but could only touch the ball into the goal.
Rochdale went 2-0 up after the ball appeared to have gone out of play for an Argyle goal kick.
Instead, while defender Niall Canavan was outwitted by Alex Newby and it led to Aaron Morley firing home from the edge of the penalty area.
Then, during 19 minutes of added-on time after Beesley was stretchered off, Argyle fell further behind.
This time, Jimmy Keohane scored with a header which defender Scott Wootton should have dealt with, while Cooper failed to react as well.
Lowe said: “We have given them the game plan. I don’t say ‘Two lads be on a line and one lad be five yards behind and keep them onside’.
“I don’t teach them that. That’s a mistake on their behalf. That’s where the first one has come.
“The second one, whether it was out or not, we should make sure it’s dealt with, and then the third one was just the kid has headed it back down and everyone has left it.”
Lowe was asked how worried he was about the way that Argyle had been conceding goals, first at Fleetwood and now against Rochdale.
He replied: “We just have to put it right. What is a worry, we need to be more aggressive and we need to compete a bit more.
“You have seen the way we play. We play good football and get in and around teams, but I can’t legislate for the mistakes for goals.
“It’s tough to take at the moment but we can’t dwell on it. We have just got to make sure we get back on the bike and get riding.”
Lowe was asked whether he thought the attitude of his players had been right, given they had conceded two goals so early into the game.
Rochdale also had a good chance to open the scoring only 35 seconds after the kick-off but a shot from striker Stephen Humphrys was blocked by Wootton.
Lowe replied: “It depends on what you look at for attitude. I would never question the lads’ attitude.
“What I would question is lack of quality at times, and lack of decision-making. I can’t see one bad attitude in there (the dressing room).”
He continued: “We didn’t compete, especially in the first seven minutes, or maybe in the first half, and that’s why we had to make the changes.
“Humphrys is a big lad and put himself about a bit, but I enjoy those challenges.
“Young (Ollie) Rathbone for them, the kid was everywhere. He had the desire to run from one end of the pitch to the other, get stuck in and tackle.
“Did we lack a bit of competitiveness? Probably, yeah. You have got to do the ugly bits as well.
“It’s alright being a good footballing team but you have got to do the nasty bits, and you have got to compete, and we didn’t compete in the first half.”
Lowe was then asked whether he thought he had the defenders to do the job he needed them to do.
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” came the reply from the Pilgrims’ boss.
“You look at the clean sheets we have had, you look at the bravery we have had, you look at the desire the lads have had in games to keep clean sheets.
“We have just played one of the best teams in the league on Saturday and kept a clean sheet (the 2-0 FA Cup second round win against Lincoln City).
“Mike has made some good saves, the lads have had some good blocks.
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“You can’t go from praising them saying they are good enough to then thinking that they are not good enough, because they certainly are.
“Yeah, they will make errors but we are League One, we are not Championship or Premier League.”
Lowe confirmed that midfield playmaker Danny Mayor was still ‘unwell’ and that was why he missed his second successive match.