United boss Paul Simpson struggled to hide his disappointment at the manner of the defeat at Harrogate on Saturday afternoon when he came out of the dressing room to speak to the assembled press.
“That was a tough watch, and a bit embarrassing, I’ve got to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m going to have to be really careful about what I say because we’ve got two more games left and we need this group of players to do them professionally for us.
“But this was just totally unacceptable. We lost nearly every first contact, every second contact, and we were pulling out of tackles and not running to recover situations.
“I don’t know what else to say because if you don’t do the basics right you’re going to lose whoever you’re playing against.”
Two first half goals set the tone as the Blues found themselves chasing the game.
“The truth is we didn’t do much of anything in the first half, it was absolutely shambolic,” he told us. “We were lucky that the goalkeeper made a save to stop it from going to 3-0.
“Can I say we were better in the second half … maybe a little bit. Towards the end of the game we’ve got set plays and they’re all defending the edge of their box, and we’re supposed to be securing it, but we end up with five against two on the counter against us, and that happened so many times.
“That’s not about tactics or anything like that. I suppose the big thing I’m going to say is that maybe Monday kidded us a little bit.
“Maybe this is another harsh lesson that reminds us where we are as a group, and why I’ve said all along that there needs to be an overhaul.”
Extremely disappointing for everybody was the difference in the level of performance from the home win over Mansfield just five days earlier.
“We’re inconsistent because that’s where we are with these players,” he commented. “This is why they are where they are in the league.
“We’ve got two games left where this group have got to fight and scrap and, let’s be honest, for some that means fight and scrap for a career.
“I said that to them at half time, but in a game like this there’s not a lot you can say. I told them that they’d got us into the mess we were in, and I was going to give them 15 minutes to sort it out.
“Unfortunately we didn’t, so we had to make some changes. Dynel had a bit of a twist on his knee, or whatever it was, so I made the decision to take him off.
“Overall, like I say, I need to be careful because at the moment I’m absolutely raging. To have to walk off that pitch in front of Carlisle fans who have made the journey and they’re obviously not very happy, understandably not very happy, I really don’t know what else to say.”
Pushing for a reason as to why it was such a poor display, he replied: “You can’t single just one thing out. It was a million and one things.
“I need to look at the game again, but my reflection on it is that I don’t think we did anything, at all, that we asked them to do.
“I praised them for their work ethic against Mansfield, because the difference from the Walsall game was that we ran 15km further than in that game on Monday. We sprinted 715m more, and I told them that had to be their baseline.
“That’s what they need to produce in every single game. We had players who were absolutely shattered after that win, they were tight and cramping, but I bet we haven’t after this one.
“That’s without looking at the data, but I don’t think I’ll be wrong. The thing that really annoys me is that in the second half we’ve had a bit of a go, without saying that we’ve had a good go, but I think I’m right in saying that these have got the second worst defensive record in the division.
“I think they’ve conceded 72 goals, but we haven’t even looked like scoring. We’ve had set plays, where they’ve had all of their players in the box, and we’re then getting countered with five against one or two.
“That’s embarrassing. That isn’t tactics, that’s them having more desire to run than ours. It’s a given that you should be able to run in a game of football.”
“I’m really surprised and really disappointed more than anything that this happened,” he added. “I now the 600 fans will have gone away disappointed, but let me assure them they can’t be any more disappointed than I am.
“It’s horrifying that it could have been worse. I looked when I first came in at the goal difference tally, and it was horrendous.
“Maybe there were signs today as to why that’s happened. They’ve not shown it in the other 12 games before this, but today was a massive cattle prod to say there’s some issues that need resolving.”
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