Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder accused his team of slipping back into bad habits during their Checkatrade Trophy defeat by Walsall.
Goals from Scott Laird and Amadou Bakayoko ended United’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages before substitute Paul Coutts reduced the deficit late on with an impressive finish.
Despite expressing grave doubts about the revamped competition’s worth - “It’s taken a dive,” he said - Wilder admitted he was disappointed by the performance of some senior players.
Wilder, who took charge of the club after it finished 11th in League One last term, said: “It was a poor display and I don’t think we’ve turned up at all.
“It was a bit of the old Sheffield United out there. I’ve told them I can think whatever I think about the tournament.
“But that shouldn’t relay onto the players.
“We prepared for it the same as a league game but it looked as if it did relay onto the players because it was a really below par performance.”
Walsall, who sit top of Northern Group H after beating Grimsby Town two months ago, took the lead when Laird pounced on a defensive error before Bakayoko doubled their advantage.
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Coutts later claimed his first goal in United colours but Wilder, who replaced Nigel Adkins at the helm in May, added: “The opposition didn’t outplay us but their attitude was better.
“I’ve told the players I don’t like that.
“I took a bit of a step back to see, with few people in the ground, who was going to drive us on.”
Fourth-placed United are without a game this weekend after their scheduled league encounter with Jon Whitney’s side was postponed due to international call-ups.
Less than 3,000 people watched yesterday’s fixture and Wilder, who has previously criticised the EFL’s decision to overhaul the Checkatrade Trophy format, said: “I’ve said all along, the timing of the tournament, how it’s gone from one set of rules to another, it’s taken a dive.
“For people in football and outside of football.
“Credit to the people who came along.
“But up and down the country, people have voted with their feet. The players can’t do that though.”
“There was a few who didn’t do themselves any favours out there,” he added.
“A few have let themselves down a little bit. So I’ll make a mental note of that.”