Peter Reid admitted his Plymouth Argyle players were second best in too many areas after seeing them beaten 2-0 at home by Port Vale.
Gary Roberts rifled in a 26th-minute opener from 20 yards in Saturday's League Two clash at Home Park and then tucked away an 84th-minute penalty after rookie Argyle defender Ladjie Soukouna had felled Rob Taylor.
Soukouna saw red for the challenge, which meant both sides finished the game with 10 men as Vale skipper Marc Richards, who had teed up Roberts' opener, was sent off in the 51st minute following a tussle with Argyle striker Warren Feeney.
Reid said: "It wasn't great. We didn't win enough second balls and I thought their front men got hold of it too much. But what do you do? Do you steam into these players? I don't think you can steam into people.
"You have got to figure out the best way to get the best out of them and it's no use hammering anybody. It wasn't good and they went down to 10 men - and I genuinely didn't see the incident - and we huffed and puffed.
"We didn't really seem to have any desire to get in there and open them up. When we got in behind we could not get a quality cross in and when we did, we couldn't get on the end of it. You wouldn't believe we have been practising crossing and finishing virtually all season."