Graham Alexander admitted his Fleetwood side had suffered from naivety as their play-off dream almost certainly came to an end at Rotherham.
With two games to play Town are five points off the pace – only a miracle now will lift them out of League Two at the first attempt
The Millers showed just what was required to keep up a play-off push, qualities which Alexander believes his own side need to start showing even if it means sacrificing their honesty.
He said: “Two things we asked of them were energy and commitment – energy from the individual and commitment to their team-mates and the club. We definitely got that.
“We maybe just lacked a bit of professionalism, not doing the right things at the right time. That’s just things like getting the free-kicks, making sure the referee has seen it.
“We’re quite an honest bunch of lads and in professional football that only gets you so far.
“There were free-kicks going the other way, where they used their nous and earned set-pieces in dangerous areas.
“I’m not saying that’s all of them because we conceded some cheap ones.
“But being able to win those set-pieces adds to the pressure, and when you’re in an environment like this, they get throw ins, corners and free-kicks, and it makes them seem the better team but I didn’t think that was the case.”
Alexander, highly critical of his players following their defeat to Rochdale a week earlier, couldn’t have asked more of his men, despite Town conceding a sloppy early goal.
“It was hard-fought. The lads did everything they could,” he said.
“We just lacked a bit of game management and decision-making. The first goal is a bit of a killer for us, but it’s our own fault and the lads really responded.
“If we had laid down and died, like we did last week, there would obviously be something wrong. We didn’t, which is good to see.”
The manager was pleased to see Fleetwood go on the offensive against Steve Evans’ promotion-chasers.
Alexander said: “We took the game to Rotherham well for spells. Then we came under a lot of pressure early second half, conceded a lot of free-kicks, some of which were free-kicks, some of which weren’t.
“But you come into a hostile environment like this and things go against you.
“We finished the game strongly. We were still looking to score and that is the bonus.”
The early goal was a disappointment after Alan Goodall’s backpass put Scott Davies under pressure and the keeper cleared straight into the path of Daniel Nardiello.
The manager said: “We’ve come to this place, you know how tough it is going to be and you give away a goal after two or three minutes.
“We’ve done that a few times now in the last five games or so.
“It gives you a setback but the lads responded to it, like against Dagenham and Gillingham, and wanted to put things right.
“We conceded another in the second half. It was deflected into the lad’s path and he’s finished it. I didn’t think they were goals of quality.”
Alexander believes the difference between Fleetwood and Rotherham was in attack
“The back four were fantastic,” he said. “We had a lot of hard work in the midfield too. But in the final third a little bit of quality and a few decisions we made cost us.
“But are they a better team than us? No, they are probably just a little bit more worldly wise.”
And Alexander is now hoping to finish on a high and give the Highbury faithful optimism for the next campaign.
He said: “We’ve got a massive responsibility next week. It is probably our last home game against Chesterfield and we want to give the fans a good feeling over the summer.”