Michael Duff admitted his players ‘weren’t at it’ in Barnsley's 3-1 loss at Exeter City on Tuesday but hopes it will be a ‘warning shot.’
After Bobby Thomas cancelled out an opener, the hosts struck twice more after the break.
Duff said: “We weren’t at it. We played some nice football but not effective football. We didn’t win enough first contacts. They did to us what we’ve done to other teams.
“Too many players didn’t turn up, too many mistakes, too much backwards and sideways passing and no quality in the top third. They had more intensity than us all over the pitch, they ran harder than us and won tackles. I have no complaints about the result."
The result ended an unbeaten run of 12 games with ten wins. Duff said: “You’re going to have poor performances. It’s the first one for a long long time.
"It might be the warning shot we needed. We might not be the team we thought.
“But I can’t be too critical of the players because they’ve been absolutely magnificent.
“We’ve taken 51 points from 22 games. Any team in any league would take take that.”
Captain Mads Andersen said: “It’s very disappointing. Every loss is disappointing. We obviously wanted to keep the run going. Too many of usjust weren’t there.
"It’s difficult to say what was wrong but credit to Exeter.”
About 500 Barnsley fans made the 520-mile round trip for the second time after the match was called off in January with three hours notice.
Duff said: “We’ve had four days down here for no points.
“We appreciate the expense, time and frustration of the supporters because it’s a long way. There was some grace from them at the end.
“The players have got enough credit in the bank to have an off-day.
“It wasn’t though a lack of effort and people downing tools.”
Was it ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ following last week’s derby win over Sheffield Wednesday?
Duff said: “I don’t think that’s got anything to do with it. That was a week ago. There has been a lot training and prep and travel since then. I don’t think it’s a case of the players getting full of themselves. They knew they could go level on points with Ipswich and two points off Plymouth.”