Northampton Town Under 18s coach Shane Goddard says his team “have to start performing” after their 2-0 defeat at home to Gillingham in the EFL Youth Alliance League on Saturday.
Gillingham created more opportunities and limited the young Cobblers to very few chances throughout.
Speaking after the match, Goddard said: “We were in the game, and we limited their opportunities for 50 minutes.
“Our shape was good, and our structure was much better.
“Then, we don’t defend a corner properly and we’re unfortunate to give a penalty away and have a man sent off.
“From that point onwards, we were in it without having any real quality.
“They showed more desire and ran harder than us at times, and that’s an issue that needs addressing.
“We’ve got quality in this group, but unfortunately, it’s not bringing itself to the forefront on matchdays, and players have got to realise that that’s where you’re judged.
“We have to start performing - if we perform and lose then it’s fine, but if we don’t perform and lose then there are issues.
“Today, I don’t think we performed anywhere near what we’re capable of.”
The youth team travel to Swindon Town in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup second round next week.
Goddard added: “It’s a nice opportunity to take our focus off the league, where our form has been hit and miss.
“It gives us a chance to play against a team from the other side of the Youth Alliance.
“The important thing is that we treat it as it is, it’s a knockout cup game where anything is possible.
“We need to go into it refreshed, believing that we can get something from it and understanding that we need to use our quality as a tool to improve our league form.
“It’s a good opportunity to bounce back from this run of form that we’re in at the moment.”