Paul Hartley believes Cove Rangers were too cautious as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Montrose in the SPFL Trust Trophy.
In what had been a lacklustre contest at Balmoral Stadium, Montrose took the lead after 58 minutes through a superb Craig Brown strike.
It was 2-0 in the 87th minute when second-half substitute Kane Hester netted from close-range, which confirmed Cove’s exit from the SPFL Trust Trophy in the third round.
Hartley’s side have won only once in their past six games.
The Cove boss said: “We had some chances in the game, but I just feel like there wasn’t enough spark.
“We had no energy about us. In possession it’s about what you do with it and then we lose two poor goals.
“We just looked too timid at times. We’re lacking a bit of courage to take the ball and be brave. There’s certainly a lot of work to do, that’s for sure.
“We think we can come here and get a good result to really kickstart us, but we’ve not done that. We’re just underperforming at this moment in time, that’s the bottom line.”
One positive for Cove was the return of Blair Yule who made his return from injury from the bench – however, Hartley struggled to see any silver linings after an underwhelming performance.
Hartley added: “We’ve got some good players on the park now, but they’re underperforming to the level (required).
“I take responsibility because I put the team together. I’ve got to take a share of the responsibility, but it’s got to come as a responsibility for everybody.
“At this moment in time we’re not doing enough to go and win games. We need to do more and there needs to be a bit more courage about us.”
Chances go amiss for Cove as Montrose secure cup win
Hartley made two changes from last weekend’s league defeat to Alloa Athletic with Will Gillingham and Mark Gallagher coming in for Tyler Mykyta and Cameron Stewart.
Long-serving midfielder Yule marked his return as he was named on the bench for the first time this season following a lengthy absence with a knee injury.
Cove had two early chances through Williamson and Mitch Megginson, but both efforts proved to be comfortable saves for Montrose goalkeeper Ross Matthews.
It should have been 1-0 when Williamson latched on to a pass through the middle, but the forward – with only Matthews to beat – opted to chip the goalkeeper and the ball soared over the bar.
After a water break due to the rare warm weather at Balmoral Stadium, Montrose had their first chance, but Brown’s long-range effort was deflected wide.
Cove’s Nick Suman was called into action for the first time after 30 minutes when Montrose skipper Paul Watson hit a tame free-kick straight right into the palms of the Australian goalkeeper.
Another chance fell to Williamson who was again denied by Matthews, before Rumarn Burrell scuffed his shot and sent the ball over the crossbar from close-range.
Williamson continued to be at the centre of the action for Cove and did well to find Megginson on the edge of the box, but the captain’s powerful strike was well held by shot-stopper Matthews.
On the stroke of half-time Suman clawed the ball off the line after Aidan Quinn managed to get a header away from the back post following a corner.
In the second half, Williamson picked up where he left off at the interval as he saw a curling effort from inside the box flash wide of the far post.
Montrose took the lead on 58 minutes after some nice build-up play from Paul Watson and Brown, which saw the latter unleash a stunning strike from 20 yards out that soared into the top corner beyond Suman.
After going behind Hartley made his first substitution of the game as Yule came on for his first minutes since April.
The away side hit Cove on the counter-attack with Hester getting on the end of a long ball over the top before slotting it beyond Suman to make it 2-0.
Cove subsitute Mykyta went close to halving the deficit in the dying minutes, but his free-kick from 20 yards out came back off the bar, before Montrose cleared the danger.
Cove Rangers (4-3-3): Suman 6, Darge 5, Gillingham 5, Reynolds 6, Scully 6, McGowan 6, Niang 5 (Yule 63), Gallagher 6 (Connell 66), Burrell 6, Megginson 6, Williamson 6 (Mykyta 75)
Subs not used: Demus, Ochmanski, Milnes, Stewart
Montrose (4-3-3): Matthews 6, Machado 6 (Gardyne 66), Dillon 6, Quinn 6, Williamson 6, Brown 7, Watson 7, Thomson 6, Lyons 7 (Callaghan 75), Batchelor 6 (Hester 61), Shrive 6 (Webster 46)
Subs not used: Gill
Player of the match: Craig Brown