United boss Paul Simpson was clear in his post-match appraisal on Saturday evening that as disappointing as the defeat to Exeter was, it was more the manner of the loss that irked him, with the performance levels having dropped far lower than his group had previously shown.
“That’s the disappointing thing from this - the things I asked them to do were all based on mentality, that was the first thing,” he commented. “I told them to have a strong mental attitude, get your performance right, and if you get that right then you should be able to enjoy the game.
“I don’t think we were sharp enough, we weren’t lively enough in terms of work ethic, and we certainly didn’t get the performance right. On the back of that you don’t enjoy it, and this is the way it goes when you have a display like that.”
“With mentality, the hardest thing is actually staying at the top,” he added. “When I say staying at the top, I mean there’s a book out that’s called Staying At The Top, but it’s more about teams winning Olympics, not about staying wherever we are in the table.
“I’m not saying that’s the top, it’s about staying top of the level of your performance, that’s what you have to be able to do.
“We didn’t stay at the top of our performance against Exeter and that’s what’s cost us. We can all perform at a certain height, and Exeter’s is higher than ours, because of what they’ve done this season.
“We weren’t at the top of ours and I think if we had been better, and closer to the level we’re capable of reaching, we might just have got the draw out of it. You never know we might even have nicked a win.
“On what we did we haven’t deserved a win and they will probably say they fully deserved it. The frustrating thing is that if we’d done the simple things well at the end of the game then we could have got a point.”
Clearly feeling the frustration throughout the interview, he said: “We have to keep going, we’ve got to do that. Even if we’re safe we’ve still got to do that.
“5,100 have turned up, and I thought they had really good support as well. Close on 4,700 people have paid good money to come and watch us and that’s why we have to make sure we keep doing it right.
“I’ve said it before, everybody is playing for their future. In football, as a manager if you’ve got a two-year deal and you have two years left, you don’t get those two years. You get a termination period and you get the sack if results aren’t right.
“As a player you have a contract and you have a duty to go and earn your next one and to keep moving on. It’s something that was drummed into me when I was a player at Manchester City, that you’re always fighting for your place in the team and your next contract and your career.
“We are all really lucky to be in this profession, and this is a game where we didn’t do enough to earn the right to be involved or to get something out of it.
“Over my run of games at this club I don’t think I’ve had to say that. This is disappointing, but let’s not forget about the run we had and why we had it.
“We have to accept we didn’t do it here, but we have to stay together and get back to it. As the manager, along with my staff, we have to look at it and focus on where we can be better.”
Things were tighter in the second half, but he insisted that still wasn’t enough.
“I think there’s probably only our keeper who comes out of it with any real credit because of the saves he made,” he said. “He kept us in it and there was one in the second half down to his right where he got a strong hand on it, then we cleared it up.
“Really we haven’t troubled their goalkeeper with anything of any real note. There’s a lot we can be disappointed about, and probably the fact that we’ve lost against Exeter is the least disappointing aspect. It’s the performance that has let us down.
“The players lacked energy, you could see that, and it’s early to say at the moment, me coming in, I don’t really know what that’s done.
“I don’t really know what difference that has made to the players because they’re the ones who go out and do the business, who have to do it out on the grass. We prepare them, we explain what we think the opposition are going to do, then it’s on them.
“Again on mentality, we know what it’s like when you make a trip from one end of the country to another, that’s tough that sort of journey. I’m led to believe they had a horrendous journey coming up here yesterday.
“They got here really late, probably about 12 hours sat on a coach, and anybody who’s been involved with Carlisle will know what that feeling’s like because we’ve had to do it.
“If we’d started this game right, that knocks the stuffing right out of anybody who’s had that sort of journey. Unfortunately we didn’t do it, for whatever reason.
“We talked about it before the game, I talked about it on Thursday about working hard, competing for first balls, making sure we got onto second balls and not doing fancy flicks.
“We spoke about retaining the ball, encouraging defenders to come close to us, maybe even drawing a foul off them, and we didn’t. We didn’t do that at all.
“I thought second half we were slightly better, but very slightly. We’ve ended up getting nothing out of the game and probably that’s what we deserved.”