Paul Cook slammed Pompey’s mental weakness after depressing defeat to Stevenage.
Cook’s side fell to a horrible 2-1 loss to Borough on Saturday in another low ebb for the campaign.
Hopes were high of ramping up the pressure on the sides above the Blues after victory at Luton on Tuesday night.
But Pompey succumbed with a half-time dressing room bust-up a key factor in the reverse.
That saw Michael Doyle and Christian Burgess both withdrawn at the break.
After boos in the win over Mansfield, Pompey fans stayed with their team as they pursued the breakthrough.
But it was two goals in four minutes which did the damage after Steven Schumacher’s 71st-minute opener.
And Cook felt his team’s display highlighted their shortcomings after predicting there were tough times ahead going into the game.
Cook said: ‘Pain always comes in this game. I’m not stupid.
‘It was always going to be a tough game after Tuesday night.
‘We had to show character and a mental toughness if it got scruffy, and we unfortunately fell short.
‘You have to be strong mentally to play football at a good level.
‘To be at this club you have to have more about you.
‘Unfortunately our lads didn’t have that extra five yards, that extra oomph to get there.
‘There can’t be fear.
‘The supporters were with them, the fans were excellent and there was no animosity at the ground.
‘It just comes from us conceding a goal, and you can see the goal coming.
‘We’ve been here before. We’ve concentrated on keeping clean sheets.
‘We’ve conceded two goals in the last four, yet we succumbed.
‘It’s a mentality. If you’re not at it you will come unstuck.’
Cook found himself being criticised by a Pompey fan for playing a single striker following the loss.
After naming an unchanged team following the impressive Tuesday showing at Kenilworth Road, he felt that wasn’t the reason for the result.
Cook was impressed with the showing of goalscorer Michael Smith, but felt he was let down by the players behind him.
Cook said: ‘There was a fella shouting at me in the stands.
‘Without being disrespectful we played one up front on Tuesday night.
‘It the same players. Come on. We just weren’t at it, unfortunately.
‘As the game wore on it led to making different mistakes. That’s football.
‘Michael (Smith) looked strong and a good, powerful runner.
‘Unfortunately behind him Baker, Bennett and Roberts weren’t really firing. That was disappointing.
‘If you don’t give your opposition respect and fear them bad things will happen.
‘When you are doing positive stuff keep knocking on the door.
‘We go back to Forde too much, negative passes all the time. Negative all the time.
‘Gareth Evans and Enda Stevens want to go backwards all the time. You need to be positive with you mistakes.
‘People can speak good or bad about us, but we weren’t at it.’