Captain Tom Clarke said Preston North End’s players were left shellshocked after their late capitulation saw them hammered 5-0 at Brentford.
Simon Grayson’s side trailed 2-0 when Marnick Vermijl hobbled off with 10 minutes go, leaving the visitors to Griffin Park a man light for the finale.
No-one in the ground could have predicted what was to come though, the Lilywhites shipping three further goals in a catastrophic four-minute period as Grayson suffered his heaviest defeat as PNE boss.
The skipper said: “It’s very much shock.
“I’ve not been on the end of one of them before.
“It’s just frustrating. We’ll look back at it on the video and see what we can do.
“We need to improve and with the experienced players we’ve got we need to do better.”
North End had started the game well enough with them arguably on top when Scott Hogan scored the first of his three goals 10 minutes before the break.
Clarke said: “In the first half I thought we created a lot of chances and played well.
“We got done with a sucker punch for their goal, probably the first shot on target and they scored.
“That’s the frustrating part. Being on top in the first half and creating the chances we did.
“If you don’t take them though you’re going to get punished.
“We went in at half-time still positive, it was only 1-0, we were still very much in the game.”
Even when Harlee Dean made it 2-0 on 74 minutes PNE still looked to have outside chance of taking a point back north but things then went horribly wrong as Hogan scored twice more either side of a Chris Humphrey own goal.
Even though defeat was on the cards the skipper said his side should have had the knowhow to keep things respectable in the closing stages.
Clarke said: “We’ve got a lot of experienced players in there.
“We’re 2-0 down, lose a player to injury and go down to 10 men and we need to have more about us to know it’s difficult to win the game at that point.
“We need to get our shape and, it’s difficult for me to say, but see the game out.
“We didn’t do that and it’s very frustrating for us and the fans.”
The result highlights PNE’s inconsistency, both positive results in the Championship this season, against Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff, being followed up with defeats.
Clarke said: “If we’d have won today it takes you right up the table.
“It is that consistency. Against Cardiff everything seemed to click.
“We were ruthless in both boxes and took our chances when they came.
“That was something we didn’t do this time and we were punished.”
Some 889 PNE fans watched the horror unfold and the Deepdale captain apologised to the supporters who had a long trip home after what was a sixth defeat in the opening eight Championship games.
Clarke said: “They didn’t deserve that.
“They sang throughout the game and it’s disappointing that we couldn’t give them what they wanted with a win.
“To do that in the last 15 to 20 minutes, all we can do is apologise.”