Chris Beech admitted Carlisle conceded soft goals against Plymouth and their efforts weren’t good enough.

The head coach also accused his side of “untying our own shoes” with some of their flawed play.

The 3-0 defeat at Brunton Park left the Cumbrians unable to move any clearer of the relegation battle in League Two.

It also came amid fresh reports linking teenage defender Jarrad Branthwaite with a move to Everton.

The 17-year-old missed his fourth successive game yesterday, Beech claiming he was "ill".

Sky Sports today said Branthwaite was likely to join the Goodison Park club. The News & Star recently reported Everton had bid for Branthwaite along with fellow top-flight outfit Watford.

United have not commented on those specific bids, beyond director of football David Holdsworth last week saying no deals had yet been struck with other clubs for Branthwaite, who United regarded as a future England player.

Chairman Andrew Jenkins used his latest programme notes to insist no formal offers had been received for the Wigton prospect and that transfer rumours were "agent-led".

The speculation continued after a defeat that left United seven points above bottom place – a gap that could be reduced on Tuesday with fellow strugglers Morecambe and Stevenage both in action.

Luke Jephcott (two) and Ryan Hardie scored for dominant Argyle and Beech said: “They’re a good team – but you’re aware of that before coming into the game.

“They use the ball very well, use the full width and length of the pitch.

“I’ve said to the players in the dressing room that you’ve got to respect your opponents but haven’t got to fear them.

“The first goal was pretty soft. It comes from a throw-in near the halfway line, the chap can have two or three touches, turn, play it down the line, and the cross comes too easy into our box, they only had one man in the box, for it to get to him isn’t conducive to winning games.

“We’ve got to be honest with ourselves to say it’s not good enough. We need to address it.

“To be fair, we have been doing that, but Plymouth are one of the top teams and we’ve lost three games against top teams [including Colchester and Crewe].”

Beech said United did not confront Plymouth’s quality well enough or adapt to the game as the first half unfolded.

He added: “I felt like we were actually comfortable in the first 10 minutes – Elliot Watt was getting on the football, the two centre-halves were splitting – but of course we don’t change the rhythm of that once they’ve fathomed us out.

“We had extra men in midfield but it wouldn’t look like it, because they’ve got great players that can travel with the football, Danny Mayor, Antoni Sarcevic, people like that, who’ve been doing it the last four or five seasons at high levels, with assists and goals.

“But you’ve got to stay on your feet, track the one-two, you’ve got to make yourself harder to beat.”

Beech said his midfielders at times pulled themselves out of position by “trying too hard”.

He also said players also needed to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves questions about their efforts.

“There’s a different type of bravery,” he said. “There are people that want to get on and pass, people and situations where you’ve got to be really honest with yourself to think, ‘Am I doing enough, whether with the football or not?’

“You can only answer that question yourself in the mirror. At the same time, you could argue the fact that when you witness it, it’s not acceptable.

“From the team’s perspective, amongst the team in the changing room…we’re all different in traits that we have, like in a family, and you often fall out, but you move forwards together in certain things and elements of acceptance.

“I think some performances, some actions are not acceptable in terms of those traits. If you get them right and positive, they serve you well for a positive result.”

Beech also admitted there was little defence for Aaron Hayden’s injury-time red card, the defender picking up a second booking with a needless late challenge.

The ex-Wolves man is now set to be suspended for Wednesday’s FA Cup replay against Cardiff.

Beech said: “Players are gonna make mistakes. He made his first one, really, at Crewe on one of their goals. Here he lost his discipline a little bit.

“That’s right at the end, the fight’s already over, he was a bit silly.

“I told him not to do it, he said he didn’t hear me, but irrelevant of hearing me he shouldn’t have done it. He’s been very good in a short space of time, but I could see it coming – the lad picked the ball up just in front of the dugout, Aaron let him run 10-15 yards and decided to hack him.

“I suppose he gave the ref no choice, he could have half done it and probably got away with it, but it’s one of those traits and disciplines where you’ve got to stay on your feet and do a harder mile.

“Again, like we talked about the midfield untying their laces and putting themselves out of positions, Aaron often did it going too wide and too high too early, so he was often running back.

“At 3-0, in the later stages, he should be slightly deeper. If Plymouth win the header, they’re heading it to him rather than him chasing back the space. He’s put himself in that position, and he’ll have to take his medicine as they say, and we’ll have to deal with it.”