Two second half goals from the visitors made life difficult for the Blues at Brunton Park on Tuesday night, with manager Paul Simpson unhappy with the result and the performance at full time.
“The result isn’t the biggest thing that’s difficult to take, it’s the performance that’s the toughest thing,” he said. “Firstly I want to say that everybody’s thoughts at the club are with the young lad [Sam Collins] who was stretchered off.
“He’s obviously in a bad way, I don’t know if he’s already gone to hospital, but you don’t like to see those things. The level of performance was horrible from us, and I thought Forest showed that they’re very good technical football players.
“We struggled right through, from start to finish. The biggest concern is that it isn’t a one-off. We struggled against Carlisle City, Wigan, Blackburn and Middlesbrough. That’s a concern.
“It was as if we were asking professional footballers to play a game of football and it was a bit of a chore to them. Not all of them, some of them have gone about it in the right way, they’re the ones who we can normally depend and rely on.
“But there was a number who were way off it. The scary thing is that we’ll probably have to use some of them at the weekend because we haven’t got enough to just discard these, we’re going to have to use them. They haven’t done themselves any favours, it’s as simple as that.”
It was the two goals in the second half that clinched the points for the visitors, with the hosts lacking the killer instinct in the final third.
“That’s clutching at straws to say just the final third,” he insisted. “We didn’t compete properly anywhere, we didn’t have any spark to us, we had nothing.
“People have talked about the level of performances we’ve had against Harrogate and the problems they cause us, but this has to go down as the worst since I’ve been back at this club.
“It was really poor, and I’m not trying to take anything away from Forest’s young lads because they showed a real enthusiasm and desire to play. They passed the ball well and had forward players with life about them.
“We looked like a group of players who had been dragged together off the street and this isn’t a one-off, it’s not a case of these lads have never played together. They’ve played quite a number of games recently and that level of performance is absolutely nowhere near what’s expected of us.”
“The first goal starts on our left when Ryan Edmondson isn’t strong enough to keep hold of the ball, then we give a cheap free kick away,” he added. “We allowed them to play, Terry Ablade hasn’t got a clue that the left back is behind him, then Jokull gets beaten at the near post.
“All goals have mistakes and there’s three that I’ve counted straight away. The second goal, we didn’t deal with runners and little combinations, then the lad smashes it in the roof of the net.
“The goals are one thing, but it’s the whole performance that’s totally unacceptable. Sadly we do have to accept it because it’s our players, but I’m afraid players have to have a real strong look at themselves and work out what they want to do with their professional career and their life.
“Based on that, there’s not many places they’re going to go if they perform like that. They need to give themselves a shake, I’m sorry, but I can’t defend that.
“I’m not even going to stand here and say it’s my fault or the staff’s fault, that’s about players. We prepared them for this game, we did the normal preparation that we do. To produce that level of performance is just way off it.”
On looking for a reaction, he commented: “They don’t need somebody to lift them, they have to lift themselves.
“You’re a professional footballer and this is your job. You have to lift yourself, you have to be professional and go about your business properly.
“We’ve got standards that we try to set and I’m stood here now after one of our best days as a football club on Saturday, if you take Wembley out of it. That was one of our best days, for us to go to Bolton and take 4,500 loyal supporters there and put on a performance like we did and win the game to send everybody away buzzing was brilliant.
“I’m walking down the street with people bibbing their horns at me and people talking to me about it probably more than I did after Wembley. That’s how positive it is.
“Then we come here and watch that. I’m not going to lift them, they’re going to have to lift themselves. Otherwise they’ll fall by the wayside, it’s as simple as that.
“There’s a situation where I would probably want to put three players on the bench on Saturday, but I’ve got to put seven on and do what’s right for the first team. We’ll see what reaction we get from everybody, because that is nowhere near, and I’ve said it in there to them.
“If you live your life to be a professional footballer that’s not what you produce. I can accept bad performances from players every now and again, but we’re talking about a theme over four or five games where they’ve produced that, and that’s not good enough.”
Although difficult, mathematically there is still a route through to the knock-out stages for United.
“Listen, there’s too many things to concern ourselves with before that game,” he told us. “If we perform anything like tis then we don’t deserve to be going through, it’s as simple as that.
“This is an opportunity for lads to play in a proper game. When you’re not in the first team you can complain about playing bounce games at training grounds and that sort of thing, because they never feel real, but this was a real game tonight.
“Regardless of the competition, it’s a real game, it’s a game where people can stamp their authority on it and come knocking on my door if they play well and say they deserve an opportunity.
“Let’s forget about the next game in this competition, we’ve got other things to concern ourselves with over the next few weeks, some big games to get ready for, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”