Winger Jonny Hayes warned Aberdeen must eradicate lapses in concentration to end a damaging winless slump.
Aberdeen are now nine games without victory following a 2-1 loss to Celtic at Pittodrie.
During the club’s worst run of form since 2010, Aberdeen have dropped to ninth in the Premiership, crashed out of the League Cup and exited Europe.
Veteran Hayes, 34, insists a squad rebuilt by manager Stephen Glass during the summer transfer window are still on a learning curve.
However, he accepts those lessons must be learnt quickly as they must cut out naive, costly errors to kick-start the faltering campaign.
Hayes said: “It is still a learning curve with so many new players playing together.
“It is naivety and switching off for a briefest second – that is where you get punished.
“I wouldn’t call Celtic’s winner a sucker punch, but we showed a bit of naivety when we switched off.
“That has been our problem, fine lines and fine margins.
“They are costing us too many points at the moment.”
Aberdeen have a free weekend due to the international break and Hayes insists the squad and manager Stephen Glass will work hard during the next two weeks to find solutions on the training pitch.
Republic of Ireland international Hayes, in his second spell at Pittodrie, believes the Reds can turn around their ailing fortunes.
‘Fine lines and little mistakes are costing us’
Adamant they have not been ‘battered’ or ‘outplayed’, the 34-year-old believes the road to recovery lies in eradicating those costly errors, particularly at the back.
The last shut-out was in the 2-0 defeat of Dundee United in the opening Premiership game of the season on August 1.
Hayes said: “We are waiting on things to turn.
“It is fine lines and little mistakes that are costing us.
“It has not been the case in the last few games that we have been battered or outplayed.
“It has been silly mistakes and switching off at the wrong time has cost us goals and points.
“I don’t think we are playing badly bar the 30 minutes we played with 10 men against St Mirren (3-2 loss).
“It is a case of keep doing what we are doing.
“We need to keep improving on the training field and hopefully the tide will turn.”
Hayes sensed Celtic’s vulnerability
That tide needs to turn quickly before Aberdeen become cut adrift from the early pacesetters in the race for European qualification.
The clash with Celtic at Pittodrie was a showdown between two teams desperate to end a concerning slump in form.
Celtic’s crisis was arguably even deeper than Aberdeen’s as the Hoops had suffered their worst start to a league campaign in more than two decades.
Hayes insists Aberdeen sensed an increasing air of vulnerability in Celtic as the game progressed and the Reds pushed for a morale-boosting victory.
Ultimately though that late, winning goal was scored by Celtic’s Jota as the Parkhead club emerged, slightly, from their slump while Aberdeen were dragged further into their own.
Hayes said: “We are disappointed.
“When we scored the goal in the second half, we got a bit of impetus and sensed a bit of vulnerability.
“We felt that we were going to win the game.”
Game plan was to attack Celtic at Pittodrie
Aberdeen were far better in the second half against Celtic and played with more attacking intent and self belief after the break.
Hayes insists the Dons did not sit off Celtic in the first 45 minutes and says the instructions from manager Glass from the outset was to attack and play the game in the Hoops’ half.
GOAL! Aberdeen 1-1 Celtic (Ferguson, 56)
Lewis Ferguson equalises for Aberdeen – game on! ⚽
📺 Watch live on Sky Sports Football! pic.twitter.com/cLsiDeVlPW
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) October 3, 2021
Hayes said: “The game plan was to push right up and that was the best way of going about it.
“Our intent was to go and press their centre-halves from the off and to play the game in their half.
“There were times when it worked well and you saw that with the pressure we put Joe (Hart, Celtic keeper) under.”
Referee right to wave away penalty call
Aberdeen had a penalty call in the first half when United States international striker Christian Ramirez appeared to go down under a challenge from centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Referee Bobby Madden waved away appeals from Aberdeen players for a penalty.
Hayes reckons the referee made the right decision.
He said: “There was a bit of contact, but you expect that sort of thing so it would have been a bit soft.
“Bobby (Madden) is good at explaining and he felt there wasn’t enough contact there.”