Simon Grayson labelled his Preston side as ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ as they threw away a three-goal lead against Chesterfield and had to settle for a draw.
Goals from Alan Browne, Joe Garner and Josh Brownhill put PNE 3-0 up inside 28 minutes.
But uncertainty crept into their play from the moment Eoin Doyle pulled a goal back for the Spireites just after the half-hour mark.
League One’s top scorer Doyle went on to score a hat-trick, reducing the arrears further with 11 minutes left and then netting a stoppage-time penalty for the equaliser after Garner had inexplicably handled in the box.
North End boss Grayson fumed: “You could say it was Jekyll and Hyde.
“To go from the level of where we played at for 30 minutes to where we finished was as if we had taken 11 off and put 11 on – two different teams.
“We have to be strong mentally and deal with situations.
“I made positive substitutions to get us the pitch but the players have to take responsibility too.
“They are not solving problems, they are waiting for us to solve a problem for them rather than doing it themselves.
“I don’t know why they are not doing that.
“It happened a little bit last year and the players have to be stronger mentally to deal with things.”
North End’s performance was chalk and cheese, with their attacking play in the opening half hour bringing the reward of three goals.
That said, Chesterfield had looked good going forward in between conceding the three goals, a threat which seemingly got ignored.
Grayson said: “I don’t know where to start. For 30 minutes we were outstanding, with and without the ball.
“We passed it with purpose, we got the three goals, we worked them and closed them down.
“But once we conceded the first goal we became a completely different team. It was as if all the positivity had been wiped out and replaced with negativity.
“The second half was a long one and we have to understand and manage situations better.
“We were defending our 18-yard box for 30 minutes. That is not us. We were at home and should be going forward.
“I don’t tell the players to stand on the edge of the box and defend, we want to be bright and positive, get a fourth and fifth goal.
“Too many times in the second half we allowed the ball to drop, pulled out of tackles, didn’t win second balls or second phases of play, and that let Chesterfield put us on the back foot.
“The players should be bright and alert enough to make sure they go and get the next goal, get on the front foot.
“But at 3-0 one or two people started to take too many touches, over-elaborate, not doing the basics.
“It was the basics which got to us to 3-0 in the first half, no doubt about it.
“We ran further than them, won second balls and had a purpose with how we passed it.
“But it was as if people then thought it was too easy.
“I can’t legislate for players putting their hand in the air and punching the ball.
“It was a penalty for definite.
“And Joe should maybe have scored to make it 4-2 before that.
“Too many people made too many poor decisions from the moment we scored the third goal.
“It is so frustrating.”
Grayson gave a debut in the second half to striker Callum Robinson who signed on a month’s youth loan from Aston Villa on the afternoon the game.
Because it is a youth loan, his stay can be extended beyond the usual 93-day limit permitted in the emergency loan window.