Phil Parkinson admitted City must “get real” and face up to a League One survival scrap.
Last night’s 1-0 loss at Carlisle stretched their barren run to 13 games since the last win and leaves them five points off the bottom four.
Despite remaining just below mid-table, Parkinson insisted there was no hiding from the clutch of clubs snapping at their heels.
The City boss said: “We’ve got to be realistic. We are on a terrible run and need to find a way out of it.
“We can’t just say we are looking above us. Recent results suggest it would be unrealistic to do that.
“We’ve got to look below and have got to look to the next game to turn this run round.”
Lee Miller’s overhead kick after 14 minutes proved decisive at Brunton Park in a game between two sides struggling for form. Carlisle had lost six of their previous seven beforehand.
City should have cleared the danger from James Berrett’s corner before Miller was allowed to pounce.
Parkinson said: “It’s so disappointing. We’ve come away from home and restricted the home team to practically nothing all night apart from one breakaway.
“But they’ve got a corner, we’ve had the chance to clear it and then the chance to clear again. We haven’t done it and their lad has overhead-kicked it into the back of the net.
“I thought we did well up to the goal but after that we really lost our way in terms of the composure in our play. We looked like a team low in confidence up to half-time.
“We came out for the second half and played so much better, controlling the game for large periods. But we just couldn’t get the goal. We lacked a little bit of craft up front.
“There were some great crosses but there wasn’t enough from us in and around the box. That’s what we lacked.
“It’s really frustrating. We just need a break at the moment and I’m trying every way I can to find a solution to the run we’ve been on.”
Parkinson has faith in his squad to halt the current slide – and pointed to the recent two-goal fightbacks against Sheffield United and Crewe as proof of the fighting qualities needed.
“It’s difficult but we’ve just got to keep the character in the team right,” he said.
“If you look at us, that still stands up very well in my eyes. Look at the Sheffield United performance and the one on Saturday.
“Players who’ve been in every game of this run like Gary Jones are hurting because they are winners like myself. We hate losing.
“To concede that first goal again was tough but we kept going second half. I thought we did everything but find that final bit of class in the box.”
Parkinson subbed new recruit Matty Dolan for Nathan Doyle at half-time.
He said: “Matty found it tough but he’s a good player. He did great for us on Saturday and it’s no slight on his performance.
“I just felt Doyley’s composure on the ball and bit of freshness would help and I thought he did well.”