Reading manager Veljko Paunovic labelled his side’s display in their 2-0 Championship defeat against Middlesbrough as “unacceptable”.
Although Reading started brightly, fellow play-off chasers Boro moved 2-0 ahead before half-time through smart finishes from Ashley Fletcher and Marc Bola.
Reading dominated much of the second period but Boro proved resilient at the back and held on for a comfortable win.
It was the Berkshire side’s third successive home defeat.
“We can’t afford to lose these games at home,” Paunovic said.
“Sure, we don’t have the advantage of supporters, but we have to do better to control our environment here. So there is still a certain advantage in that.
“But, today, this was unacceptable. I am not happy with it.
“I also have to say, though, that we have to stay calm. We have to look to improve.
“And we have to make sure that we don’t start to become bitter about this or throw things on each other.
“At this stage of the season, and with the results around the league today, we can see that everyone is fighting for their lives and for their objectives.
“There were many scores around that weren’t expected so more credit to this league and all the competitors.
“We have to look at the reasons why we didn’t have a good start today. We looked a little bit too relaxed and not like we usually are at the beginning of our games.
“Maybe it was a lack of intensity, I’ll leave it there. But we definitely cannot have a repeat of the performance that we had in the first half.
“In the second half, we had a good reaction. I wish we’d done that at the start of the first half.
“We had more structure and we created more opportunity. Unfortunately, we didn’t create enough clear opportunities.
“Had that happened, I’m sure that we would at least have been closer to drawing the game.”
Middlesbrough won for the second match in a row to boost their chances of qualifying for the end-of-season play-offs.
“I thought it was a good performance and if I’m honest, I thought that we were in the mood before the game,” Boro manager Neil Warnock said.
“Even in the hotel beforehand, though I know that sounds silly.
“All the lads knew what they were doing and put it all out there. I thought that we were very good tactically today.
“That was probably as good a performance – against a good side – since I’ve been here really.
“It’s great (that we’re getting closer to the play-offs). But we’ve got to keep this up now.
“All the boys produced good performances today. Against a good team, I thought that we looked a good team.
“We’re still probably punching above our weight but we’ve just got to enjoy this moment.
“I think that we’re four points off safety now!”