Kevin Watson thought his side looked like a team with a hangover from a long away trip rather than Barnet, despite the Bees having had a late return from Barrow on Saturday.
“Barnet got home from Barrow at 4.45 on Sunday morning because their lad had a head injury and they sat in the hospital until 10pm,” the Fleet manager told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “But it looked like we’d been in Barrow till whatever time.
“I will take it on the chin if there’s a reaction on Saturday. It’s a kick up the backside. We now need to bounce back immediately from that, we need to work even harder on the training ground. The goals tonight, you just can’t have those goals.
“It’s a little bit of a reality check for all of us in terms of we’ve been doing well but that for me was, let’s just say disappointing to say the least. What’s been said in the dressing room will remain in the dressing room and I will expect a reaction whatever team I pick on Saturday.”
The manager’s team selection was limited by injury and suspension but he refused to let that hide the poor performance at The Hive.
“I’m not going to hide behind the fact we had only 16 fit players,” he said. “That’s not an excuse whatsoever, you only need 11 on a pitch which we had and we had adequate subs to come on.
“We were poor first-half. I had a right go at them because we’re so much better than that. We started the second half well, got a great equaliser, [we were] on top, then in a minute we concede. That’s incredibly poor defensively. I think they had four shots in the second half including the penalty and three of them go in.”
And he questioned his side’s ability to manage games and moments in games because of the high turnover of goals conceded.
“We’ve conceded far too many goals. Yet again we score two goals away from home and come away with nothing. It can’t happen. If we have to, we stay out on the training ground until whatever time, working on defending, working on heading, tackling, picking people up from set pieces. It’s the decision-making all round the pitch and game management in terms of if you get back to 2-2, you’re arguably the better team, you’re on top, it’s a great second goal for us, really well worked… you ease back into the game for another five or 10 minutes, stay on top and we just don’t. And that happens too often. And that is game management and mentality.”
Watson was unhappy with his side all across the pitch and he admitted that the responsibility lay with not just the defenders but with the whole squad – and himself, too.
“I’ve made a couple of decisions, before the game,” he admitted. “I possibly made a wrong decision this evening, you might have your own opinions. There were reasons for me thinking it might be the right decision but it turned out I possibly made the wrong one. That’s me holding my hands up, I’d like to think the boys will do the same.
“I can’t be too harsh because we’ve been doing OK for a team that’s at the bottom but some of our defending and decision-making – and that’s not just defenders, all round the pitch tonight was not what I would say was acceptable – and we’re all in it together.”
The manager admitted he has stuck by his squad because of their efforts since he came in and he reiterated his faith in those players, while acknowledging that some fresh blood is desperately needed.
“They’re with me, I’ve got a lot of belief in them because of what they’ve done for me over the last few weeks but it’s a bit of a reality check to tell us all where we are and we’ve got to work even harder,” he said.
“There is possibilities to bring people into the club and we need to. We need to freshen it up. We lost Albie Morgan back to Charlton and that was a huge blow for us. I’ve been loyal to these boys but we do need bodies in the building.”
The manager took time out to praise the Fleet fans in attendance who only days after returning from Stockport were back on the road and around the M25 to cheer on their side.
“Our support tonight was brilliant, absolutely outstanding,” he said. “And I’ve got to give them a special mention because it’s a Tuesday night, Champions League is on the telly, [it’s an] outstanding following and still banging the drum and singing at 5-2 down. Those guys are fantastic and we’ll need them.
“We’ve just had a few home truths in there amongst everyone. I very rarely have any qualms about us with the ball, we score two a game nearly. But you cannot have to score three goals to win a football match continuously because you can’t do it.
“They’re honest lads, a good bunch, and it’s not just them. All the injured boys are here again as usual, we just need to be better without the football. You can coach it but at the end of the day it’s got to come from within those players.”