Gary Caldwell questioned his side’s backbone and accused them of ‘going down with a whimper’ after a chastening 4-0 rout at the hands of Southend.
The Spireites, who had Dion Donohue sent off just before the break, are all but mathematically relegated now and although he wouldn’t concede that the battle was lost, the manager challenged his players to try and salvage their own personal futures.
He was also unhappy with the performance of referee Ross Joyce and felt the reaction of the Southend bench influenced the sending off.
“I think first half we didn’t play well or do what we wanted to do but there wasn’t a lot in the game,” he said.
“The penalty was a disappointment in terms of the mistakes we made, not pressing the ball, not dealing with the runner, Stucky making a poor decision.
“But apart from that they didn’t have a lot of chances in the game and whilst we weren’t passing or playing well, I did’t feel like a 4-0 was coming.
“Then the sending off is a big turning point in the game.
“I think there was a lot of challenges first half that went unnoticed and then that one gets a big attention because of the reaction of the technical area.
“The foul on Dion in the first half is a bad tackle and that doesn’t even get a yellow so there were inconsistencies within his decisions.
“I thought the ref was poor if I’m being honest, which I have to be, but we can’t use that as an excuse, we have to look at ourselves.”
Town conceded three goals after the break as Southend made their man advantage pay off.
Caldwell said it was tricky to try and attack without throwing caution to the wind, but felt his players capitulated all too easily.
“The difficult thing at half-time is trying to win the game with 10 men, keep an attacking threat but also be tight at the back,” he said.
“With the two up top I thought we started the second half on the front foot, we had a chance across the face of goal and then their goals after are far too easy.
“In those moments of crisis we are far too soft and don’t show enough backbone at those moments.
“I said to the players, since I’ve been here, in a crisis we don’t stand up.
“Football isn’t easy and in those moments you need to be big, stick your chest out and dig in. We seem to go down with a whimper at that moment.
“It’s consistency in everything you do.
“They’ve conned me a couple of times, but they can’t keep doing it and football will eventually find you out.”
Caldwell refused to concede that relegation was inevitable and says his players should feel they have a lot to play for in the final three games.
“Try and win the next game,” he said.
“We’ll try and win the next game, we’re still trying to build something for the future.
“They’re not just playing for their future at this club but in football because in a club that is dropping down the divisions, I don’t know where you go from there, I don’t know where the next club is.
“There won’t be too many takers, so they’re all playing for their careers.”