The Manager | Quarter Final Reaction
“It is obviously very disappointing. We came into the game hoping to perform the way we have done the past couple of games, but the group looked dead on their feet to be perfectly honestly. They have given us everything they can the previous two games, but it did not look like they were able to do the things we needed them to do, and to play against a United team who came here full of energy, plus some good quality. We did not handle the challenge.
“We started ok but United took control after the first goal. It did not look like we were thinking forward quick enough.
“We needed a bit more knowhow. Any time United missed a pass, they missed it in a decent area. We were not able to feed off them.
“Any time it went back United pressed up and we could not handle it under the pressure. I think we looked mentally tired. It did not look like we could play under that level of pressure for the third time in a week. That is something we will need to address and build. Once we have had a chance to work with the players, we need to make sure it does not happen again.
“From a day like this you learn a lot.
“You learn what is required to handle that again, three games in a week. You learn which players are capable of doing it and which players are not. I would say though that the players have given us everything – their effort levels, their application and professionalism has been first class. And it is not like we had the choice to make five or six changes without throwing a lot of young boys into a game of that magnitude.
“The way that we want to work takes it out of the players and you saw what three games in a week does to them. We will get them prepared for when that eventuality comes again next year.
“The group is what it is, and that is why we are here, to assess it ahead of next season.
“Of course, it is an opportunity missed. It is the quarter final of a cup and you lose. Before the game we knew what the opportunity was – the chance to go to Hampden and play in a semi-final. United have taken that chance.
“We have three league games left. We will try and get as many points as we can which might still not be enough for third spot even if we get them all. But our plan is to assess the group which it always has been, see what we need for next year and a chance for the players to show that they can and want to be here next year. Then we will regroup in the summer and see where we are at.
“When you are a professional and you get a disappointment, you roll your sleaves up and crack on the next week. There are nine points to play for. That might not be enough but the season if far from over. The players are aware of that already.
“I want to think forward. I want to think how we are going to work. We will prepare the players so they are capable of doing this.
“The players are feeling the end of a long season. It has been difficult because they have been training and not doing their normal everyday life stuff. So I think you are seeing teams all over the country who are struggling fatigue wise. So there is nothing different within this group. But next year I am hoping there will be a different group and a different mindset within it. A group of men that is able to compete.”