Graham Westley admitted that Preston North End ran out of steam in a physical and creative sense during the Boxing Day goalless draw with Bury.
North End started the contest strongly in front of a season’s best 12,014 crowd at Deepdale but the longer it went on, the less they looked like finding the net.
It’s now almost three months since they won at home in league action, with Doncaster next up on Saturday.
Westley said: “We were dominant in the first half, we came out and took the game to Bury.
“We created enough chances to have won a couple of games rather than just the one.
“But it shows what happens when you are not clinical.
“In the second half we ran out of steam and there were a lot of lads playing their first game of first-team football for a while.
“Their match legs weren’t quite with them and that started to show.
“The substitutions we made didn’t affect the game in the way we had hoped, they were poor changes and we lost our way a bit.
“When you have a lot of players who haven’t been playing regular football, they want to try and cement a shirt.
“And they end up playing safe football – not wanting to make mistakes – rather than trying to be the hero. I need players who can step-up to the plate.
“Someone in the dugout turned to me during the first half and said to me that Stuart Beavon would have had a hat-trick had he played with all the chances we’d created.
“We kept the tempo on Bury, kept on top of them, and someone like Beavon would have finished them off.”
With Beavon sidelined by a hip injury and Lee Holmes out with a groin strain, the North End side had a workmanlike look about it.
Chris Beardsley and Jack King were paired up front, with Lee Trundle introduced into the action in the second half for his first league appearance for PNE.
Westley said: “We’re unbeaten in 12 of the last 14 games.
“That shows we are in control of a lot of games but aren’t being clinical enough to win them. We have to find that extra step, it’s about finding that edge to turn draws into wins.
“To be fair to the players, they’ve taken the knocks and injuries in their stride and got on with things.
“When you’re missing Beavon, Holmes, Nicky Wroe, Keith Keane and Scott Laird, that’s a lot of creativity and goals we’re without.
“Had we scored early in the game yesterday, we would have gone on to score two or three more soon afterwards.
“You could have seen a mountain of goals.
“But it didn’t happen that way, and in the end we have to credit our back four for defending strongly and keeping a clean sheet.”