Nigel Clough admitted it felt “bitterly disappointing” to miss-out on a money-spinning FA Cup tie against Manchester United after watching his team crash-out of the competition.
Three goals in ten second-half minutes ensured it was Preston North End, not last season’s semi-finalists, who will face Louis van Gaal’s side at the fifth round stage despite Jamie Murphy’s opener for the hosts.
Clough said: “There was a massive incentive, to have the biggest club in the country coming to our ground, and we didn’t play if that was the carrot.
“That was the exact opposite to how we’ve been in the cups, pretty much all of our games, lately. There was no energy or spark and Jose Baxter was the only person who looked as if he might create something for us.
“Maybe the changes backfired. But you can see why we needed to bring in some new faces during the (transfer) window because it’s been a mentally demanding time, with big games in the league and against Spurs. Maybe that played a part.”
Murphy struck the opening blow of this fourth round replay. But two goals from Paul Gallagher, punctuated by a Paul Huntington header, turned the match on its head.
Clough, whose team drew 1-1 at Deepdale last month, delivered a brutally honest appraisal of their performance after revealing he is “unlikely” to enter the loan market when it reopens shortly.
“Defensive mistakes were certainly behind that,” Clough added. “And maybe an air of thinking we’d done the hard work over there.
“But we were fortunate not to be behind at the break and you don’t have to look much further than that.”