Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton admitted Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Accrington was the poorest his side have been all season since their opening day defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
Town have been unbeaten in the seven league games since but had to grind out a point at Highbury.
They did so without the services of Ched Evans but, nevertheless, a trio of Town players were praised by the manager with Alex Cairns, Ash Hunter and Cian Bolger picking up the plaudits.
Bolger was the man who opened the deadlock on his first league start since the 1-0 defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
Since then Town have been unbeaten in the league but Sean McConville's 70th minute strike ensured Accrington secured a deserved point.
Barton said: “You work all week, then you get a phonecall Saturday morning saying your number nine (Evans) has a bit of a niggle so the game plan changes slightly.
“I’m not using that as an excuse because the players are prepared, they all know their roles and responsibilities.
“At times we had to rely on Cairnsy but we know he is one of the top performers in that position in the division.
“If you are going to have a good season, you need your good players to play well when called upon. To this point they have all done that.
“It was a wonderful ball in from Ash Hunter and really good desire from big Bolge (Bolger) to get on the end of it.
“We have shown we can really dig in when we don’t play fantastically well.
“If I’m honest, it is as poor as we have been all season, maybe bar the Wimbledon game.
“But, credit to Accrington, they have come and applied themselves well.”
As well as Evans, Barton was also without the suspended Wes Burns and Craig Morgan (hamstring).
For good measure, he also had to withdraw Conor McAleny (hamstring) and Dean Marney (groin).
“If we did what we had practiced from Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we would have caused them a lot more problems,” Barton said.
“That is the difficulty of being a manager and the coaching staff.
“Sometimes when the lads cross the white line, the brains do not work as well as they do on the training ground.
“That is frustrating, because if they had stuck to what is offered, there were opportunities there.
“Again, we are learning, it is a learning process.
“I cannot expect the lads to be perfect; up to this point they have been exceptional.”