Sheffield Wednesday’s defensive horror show against Watford certainly took the gloss off Lee Bullen’s 43rd birthday.
The Scot had hoped to celebrate the milestone in style on Saturday by overseeing a home victory over the mid-table Hornets.
But Watford’s pace and quality on the counter attack ruthlessly exposed the Owls backline as they cruised to a 4-1 success.
Bullen, who joined Wednesday’s first-team coaching staff on a permanent basis in February, told The Star: “Everybody in the dressing room was deflated and frustrated by the Watford result.
“Your initial reaction after you’ve been beaten 4-1 is of absolute despair and disappointment. You always look at things from the negative point of view afterwards and rightly so. It was such a blow and we never saw it coming. It was a bit of a shock to the system.
“But a couple of days have passed and we have analysed and watched the game on video again and there were, bizarrely, quite a lot of positive things to come out of it.
“We controlled a lot of the game and created plenty of chances. I thought we played at a slower pace than we would have liked in the first half but we upped the tempo in the second period. The fans, at times, were clapping the players in appreciation of the way the players were trying to play their football.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning games and the biggest part of the game is keeping the ball out of the net at one end and putting it in the other and we didn’t do either well enough on Saturday.”
Given he was a centre-back during his playing days, Bullen took great pride in keeping clean sheets and nullifying the opposition’s threats. The former Owls captain has shored things up at the back but accepts their standards dropped against Watford.
He said: “We have recently been fantastic defensively. We have kept six clean sheets over the last couple of months and looked really solid.
“I think Watford was just one of those days where we had one or two players who were off the pace from the levels they have been at.
“It’s no good pointing fingers at anyone. We just have to regroup, dust ourselves down and get on with it.”
With head coach Stuart Gray missing the fixture because he was attending his son’s wedding, Bullen and fellow coach John Deehan were put in charge of the team. Gray will resume his pitch-side duties when Wednesday travel to Championship leaders Leicester City on Friday night in front of the Sky cameras.
“We will all stick together as that’s what has got us to where we are at the moment.” insisted Bullen, who continues to work with the club’s under-21 side. “We are in a good position in the league but there is still a bit of work to be done yet.”