Alex Neil felt Preston lacked ‘gumption’ in their lacklustre draw with Birmingham City at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites boss was frustrated that his side were bullied for long parts of the game and admitted they were fortunate to take a point.
Ben Davies gave PNE a 17th-minute lead with his first goal for the club, Birmingham equalising after the break through Sam Gallagher after a real mix-up between Chris Maxwell and Paul Huntington.
Neil said: “Sometimes you have a really bad day and this was the worst we have had performance-wise since I have been here.
“I think from what is at stake for us and what we want to achieve this year, for us to churn out that performance was frustrating.
“It didn’t have the desire I think it needed and didn’t have the aggression which was needed.
“Passing the ball well and having nice patterns of play is all fine and well.
“On good days, on good pitches when it is nice, the sun is shining and everyone is pals and singing Kumbaya, that is easy.
“But when you need to grit it out and are determined to get into the top part of the league, you need to have a bit of gumption about you – we lacked that.
“What I did beforehand was to look at Birmingham, who had scored 15 goals this season – we had scored 31.
“Ben Pearson missing sort of forced my hand but I was hoping that at home, if we dominated the ball, we had enough creativity to break them down.”
Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson were paired together in midfield, with Josh Harrop in the No.10 role.
With Pearson absent with an injury collected at Millwall, that trio came off second best to a powerful Blues midfield. Said Neil: “Prior to the game I had a chat with Gally, DJ and Josh.
“I said that in most games one of them is normally on the bench.
“The reason for that is the question mark of the three of them being able to put a foot in and can they do the nasty side?
“I think that was answered against Birmingham.
“If people moan that Alan Browne is in the team, that is why – if you don’t do that part of the game well, the rest of it doesn’t matter.
“I’m not digging the three lads out, it was not solely down to them because if I’m being honest the guys at the top end of the pitch didn’t perform well either.”
Neil anticipates Pearson’s absence will not be a long one.
During the game, he lost goalscorer Davies to a tight hamstring and Jordan Hugill had to come off after getting a bang on the back of his head.
Gallagher also suffered a knock on the knee.