‘RABBITS in the headlights’; ‘lacklustre’; ‘not good enough’ – these were just some of the phrases Gareth Ainsworth used in a stinging assessment of Wanderers’ 1-0 defeat against ten man Fleetwood Town today.
Courtesy of an early kick off, Blues took the field knowing relegation rivals Bristol Rovers had already lost and a result at Highbury would help put their survival destiny in their own hands.
The players should have gone out with a spring in their step thanks to that confidence boost, but instead they played as badly as they have done all season and in the end were fortunate not to be on the end of a more emphatic scoreline.
All this was against a side who played all bar 12 minutes of the game with ten men, thanks to Alan Goodall suffering an inexplicable rush of blood to the head by lashing out at Reece Styche as he lay on the ground.
Almost an hour passed after the final whistle before Ainsworth had composed himself enough to deliver his damning assessment of the afternoon’s events, having read his players the riot act in the dressing room.
The beleaguered Blues boss said his side were still feeling sorry for themselves at seeing a late winner against another rival for the drop, Northampton Town, controversially disallowed and let that affect their performance.
With the Cobblers also being beaten there are still three teams on the same number of points straddling both sides of the relegation zone – leaving Ainsworth to rue a missed opportunity for his side to drag themselves away from danger.
He said: “It’s definitely a missed chance – that’s an understatement. We’ve seen the other results and they have all gone for us – it couldn’t have gone any better for us this weekend.
“I told the boys they looked like they had a hangover from our goals being disallowed on Friday.
“Once they went to ten men, we looked the weaker side. We packed our midfield out but [goalscorer Josh] Morris was still able to dance through – I’m very disappointed with that. We looked a little bit rabbit in the headlights at times.
“There were too many under par. The passing wasn’t there, the cutting edge wasn’t there.
“We didn’t create enough and looked a little bit lacklustre. That’s the bottom line - I’ve got to look for more. The passing wasn’t there – when we had chances to switch the play, we switched the play with a high, long ball instead of whipping it in. It’s a fantastic pitch to play football on and we weren’t good enough, not by a long shot.”
Ainsworth had hoped Bristol Rovers’ 2-1 defeat by Rochdale would serve to give his men extra impetus – instead it worked the other way with Fleetwood knowing they now needed to get a result if they were to catch Dale in the chase for automatic promotion.
Ainsworth said: “They ran out knowing we had a little bit of pressure off us. I felt that might go to our advantage but it didn’t at all. Maybe Rochdale winning urged Fleetwood on a little bit. They were the better side. There was no way we deserved to get anything out of today’s games – it’s a poor performance.”