Steve Cotterill warned he is “not a magician” after Forest Green slipped nine points from safety with a 1-0 home defeat to Accrington.
Jack Nolan scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to leave Accrington 10th and firmly in play-off contention.
Rovers remain winless in the league since October and rooted to the foot of the Sky Bet League Two table.
Despite creating the better chances, the hosts failed to change their fortunes in Cotterill’s first match at the helm since replacing Troy Deeney.
Cotterill said: “I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw today.
“I didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t deserve to lose the game – if there is a criticism of us today it is that we could’ve hit the target a bit more.”
Forest Green started the better with forward Matty Stevens denied by Stanley goalkeeper Radek Vitek following a Callum Jones cross.
It was the same pairing who created Rovers’ best chance of the half as Stevens slid Jones’ low delivery narrowly wide.
The visitors were given a penalty when Ryan Inniss upended Alex Henderson inside the area.
Winger Nolan made no mistake and hammered his effort straight down the middle after 22 minutes.
Emmanuel Osadebe’s left-footed drive from a tight angle bounced just beyond the far post minutes before the break.
The hosts made a flying start to the second half when Fankaty Dabo found Osadebe inside the area but his turn and shot went off target.
Full-back Jamie Robson delivered an inviting low ball for Stevens but he couldn’t divert his effort goalwards.
Stanley captain Joe Pritchard found a half-yard of space but his curling effort from the edge of the area was well-saved by Luke Daniels and Stanley held on for all three points.
Cotterill continued: “I felt the substitutions disrupted our rhythm a little bit. We probably lost our way on those substitutions but I needed to see those players.
“There has to be players who want to come here. My focus will be strengthening the squad between now and Thursday.
“What you can’t do is make poor decisions for the football club.
“I’m not a magician. I can’t turn it around by myself.
“I can make them better as a team but I can’t make them better if they don’t want to be better as a team. As it stands, I think they’re all in.”
Accrington boss John Coleman admitted his side were not at their best.
He said: “It’s given me a new lease of life working with these players. They’re like sponges for knowledge.
“We were nowhere near the attacking force we normally are and we were a bit rusty.
“The last time we won 1-0 here, we got promoted, but there’s still a long way to go. It was all about winning today and we found a way to win.”
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