It was a disappointing day for the Blues on Saturday as they found themselves on the wrong side of one-goal reverse and, with two sendings off, it ultimately proved to be a costly outing.
“Let’s not look at blaming anybody else, the defeat our own fault,” manager Paul Simpson said. “If you don’t do the basics well then you don’t get anything out of the game, and unfortunately we haven’t done that.
“The biggest disappointment is that after a really good week of two good performances against Portsmouth and Burton, we’ve been way off it in terms of football.
“We’ve turned over possession so many times. In terms of competing, we haven’t won our duels enough.
“I’m not being disrespectful, but they were there to be beaten. They were a team who in a way looked like they were waiting to be beaten early on.
“They were tentative, but we give them a lift. We had an opportunity really early on when Dan Butterworth put his shot wide, and we had some really good transitions where we haven’t made it count with our decision making and our quality on the ball.
“There’s nobody else to blame, it’s solely our fault, it’s as simple as that.”
And the goal coming so late in the game left the tram with plenty to do.
“I thought we had a good shape about us, then the ball came to Callum and he didn’t need to play that pass, but he played it straight back to them,” he explained. “We didn’t work hard enough to stop the cross coming in, then their midfielder has ran off our midfielder and had a free header inside the box.
“You just can’t make those sorts of mistakes, regardless of who you’re playing against. If you have two or three consecutive mistakes like that then you’re going to get punished, and that’s exactly what happened.
“At the other end we didn’t test their keeper at all. I can’t think of a save their goalkeeper had to make, if I’m going to be honest. We huffed and puffed a couple of times from set plays, but the top and bottom of it is that we weren’t good enough.”
The feeling of frustration was added to with the team having played so well in recent games.
“That’s why we talk about that consistency,” he commented. “I’ve said to them that I accept that we can’t play brilliantly every game, but you have to get a consistent level of doing the basics right, and that’s where we’ve let ourselves down.
“I do think we’ve let ourselves down because I felt it was a missed opportunity for us. We haven’t done the things that we really wanted to do, and that I think we’re capable of doing, and when you do that, especially at this level, you come away with nothing.
“This was an opportunity missed, I’ve said that already. It’s not as if we’ve come to a team who are absolutely flying and picking up wins left right and centre.
“It was a team who were really low on confidence and when you have that opportunity you have to go and get right into their faces and be ruthless. Unfortunately we’ve been whatever the opposite of ruthless is.”
And the hoped for spark that has been seen in the second 45 minutes in previous performances didn’t quite ignite, as the goal Cambridge nicked was followed by dismissals for Jack Armer and Alfie McCalmont.
“I just thought we looked tired after the break, that’s why I made the changes early,” he explained. “I thought Sean Maguire and Dan Butterworth looked a little bit tired, they’ve had a lot of games, Seani has anyway, Butts has had close to a 90 the other day.
“There’s a whole adrenaline thing that goes with getting into the team, unfortunately it didn’t work for us second half, so I decided to try and change it. It was just one of those days when the changes I made didn’t have an effect.
“To really have impact, I think every game you have to do the basics well. I give them their due, I always say there’s two things you have to do and that’s competing and running.
“I thought they ran, I’ve got no issues around that, but I don’t think they competed well enough. I think we lost too many duels, and then on top of that when you do those your football should come out.
“I thought the football we played on Tuesday was very good, but here it wasn’t, we turned the ball over far too many times. One of the times culminated in the goal we’ve conceded, we’ve given them a lift and ourselves a mountain to climb with that, and then by getting two red cards.”
“It was one where we didn’t have enough. Even the lads who came off the bench had no impact. I thought Luke Plange had a bit of a go and looked lively, Terry has had one really good run and he blazed it far too high.
“The next one he has a bit of composure and finds Alfie, and Alfie can’t find the finish, so it’s massively disappointing because this has been a real opportunity that we’ve let go.”
The win would have taken the Blues into the middle-of-table-pack, but the result left them knowing exactly what’s needed going forward.
“Like I say, it’s an opportunity missed, simple as that,” he reiterated. “I talked to the players the other day on the way I judge the season.
“This would have been the first result, if we’d won, that would have took us over the red line, and we’ve missed that opportunity.
“And that’s in a game that I honestly do think was there for us. There was a nervousness about them, but we’ve given them a lift.
“I’m not being disrespectful to Cambridge by saying that, but they’re on a bit of a tricky run and we’ve allowed them to get a result.
“We have to get a level of consistency that deserves to get results, but this is a game where we haven’t deserved to.
“We have to improve, we’ve got to, because the league table doesn’t tell lies. Unfortunately our level of performance consistently doesn’t tell lies either.
“We are going with a small squad and it’s going to have to be changed around. We’ve got to work with them. Really, the challenge for the players is to produce a consistent level of performance that actually shows they deserve to stay here, or gets them a move somewhere else.
“Because football careers go really quickly, and if you don’t do it properly they’re gone in a flash. We have to get ourselves sorted out, it’s as simple as that, because I don’t enjoy days like this.
“I don’t think the players can enjoy it either. We’re in football to try and enjoy it and we’ve got to do everything we can to get there.”