Phil Parkinson issued an apology to the travelling Altrincham fans and vowed to step up his search for attacking reinforcements after being stunned by three first-half Leamington goals and a second-half red card for leading marksman Jordan Hulme at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium on Saturday.
Hulme faces a four-match ban, after an off-the-ball clash with defender Junior English, but it was the way promotion-chasing Alty succumbed to lowly Leamington after a bright start that perturbed Robins boss Parkinson the most, as he said:
‘I have no idea where that performance came from. I’m soul-searching, to be honest, and we deserve all the criticism we get, particularly for what happened in the first half. That cost us the game.
‘We have an identity at Altrincham. I have tried to promote that and instil it in the players ever since I arrived at the club, but in that first half, I didn’t recognise the team out on the pitch. We speak in training every week about when to go long and when not to, but, for some reason, we decided today to turn into a long-ball team.
‘Well, I hope anyone who feels we should resort to that more often can now see why it isn’t us. We played Leamington football, not Altrincham football, and that’s why we had no control of the game. I didn’t recruit players to play that way, yet that’s what we did consistently throughout the first half.
‘People may write it off as a bad day, but it was worse than that for me. You can only dismiss it as one of those things if you have tried to impose your style of play on the game but it hasn’t quite worked out or you’ve been undone by a bit of quality.
‘That wasn’t the case. For the first time since I took over here, we haven’t gone about things by trying to play the brand of football we all believe in, and that is hard to take. We’ve had below-par performances before, but not like this.
‘For me, it was hopeful football today, punt it forward and see what happens, hope the second ball might bounce your way. It’s like tossing a coin, and that’s not me. Everyone wants exciting football, but, for me, exciting football is when you gain control, choose your moment to play the right ball and hurt the other team with the quality of it.
‘That is why I have always promoted patience and a particular style of play, because it's the football I like to watch and it yields results. When we are doing that, I will defend these players to the hilt, but they did their own thing today. That shows what can happen when you don’t stick to the game plan, and I have to take all the criticism as well, because I picked them and obviously got that wrong.
‘I can only apologise to the fans, particularly after they travelled in numbers once more and got behind us with great vocal support, as usual. They must be disgusted with that performance.
‘It really hurts. I can’t explain to you how much it hurts, because all the criticism I could hear and that’s still to come is fully justified. All those criticising are absolutely right, and I just hope the players can learn from this.
‘I know they are hurting as well. They are all disappointed in there. We have a fortnight now to work on putting things right, and we will be training really hard, because we cannot have any more days like this between now and the end of the season, or we won’t make the play-offs.
‘It is not acceptable to be winning one week, losing the next, as we have been doing over the past month or so. That has to change, and I need to have a look at all the factors. I thought we lacked energy in the first half. I have stuck with the same players for a few weeks now, and maybe tiredness crept in. Perhaps I should have freshened it up. I will carefully consider all those elements, but the main thing is we get back to playing the way that suits us.
‘That is the message I will be ramming home to the players. They are going to be worked really hard in training over the next fortnight – they are going to be challenged mentally and physically.
‘I’m not going to comment on the sending-off until I’ve had a look at the video, but with Jordan missing the next few games, I will look to bring another forward in. Nathan Waterston is a young forward with potential, but we do need to reinforce the front line now.’