Simon Grayson warned his Preston North End players not to waste away their season after defeat to Premier League-bound Newcastle United.
The Lilywhites were well in the game for long periods at St James’ Park but Paul Gallagher saw red for a handball on the line as they went down 4-1 and the Magpies sealed promotion.
It was a fourth defeat in a row for PNE who are 11th in the Championship with two games to play.
“We’ve got to make sure that in the last two games we don’t undo a lot of good work,” said Grayson.
“For 80 or 90 per cent of this season we’ve been very good.
“The last four games we’ve tailed off and not produced performances like we should.
“We owe it to our supporters to make sure we keep going. The players owe it to themselves as well. They’ve had a fantastic season.
“It was always going to be difficult given what was at stake and full congratulations go to Rafa Benitez, his group and the supporters, they deserve to be back in the Premier League.
“But ultimately it was about what we tried to do.
“We’ll learn from everything and we have to improve next year.”
Ayoze Perez gave the hosts an early lead but Jordan Hugill soon levelled when he converted Tom Barkhuizen’s cross with a neat flick.
Christian Atsu’s goal right on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game however with Gallagher then sent off in the 64th minute as he blocked Isaac Hayden’s shot.
Matt Ritchie converted the spot kick with Perez grabbing his second and Newcastle’s fourth shortly after.
It all means the Lilywhites have shipped 13 goals in four games as their season, which once promised a play-off push, tails off.
“You can blame the number of players we’ve got out injured but players that have come into the team know what they’re doing,” said Grayson.
“We’ve made basic errors. A minute before half-time you’ve got to be solid, manage the game better and if you go in at 1-1 you’re well and truly in the game.
“As the game goes on you never know what might happen. But we gifted them goals and it becomes a difficult night when you go down to 10 men.”
North End have shipped 10 goals at St James’ Park this season on the back of the 6-0 EFL Cup hammering six months ago.
Grayson admitted there was a feeling as ‘here we go again’ as he watched events unfold.
“When you’ve been stood on that touchline five, six months ago and you get done for six you don’t want that to happen again.
“It was damage limitation.
“The red card is a reaction thing. It’s disappointing because we’ve gone down to 10 men again.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined in what we do.
“It was a key moment because at 2-1 we’re still in the game but from then on it’s very difficult.”