Fuming manager Luke Williams questioned whether his players are too scared to play for “a big club like Notts County” following a 3-1 loss at Harrogate.
Goals from George Thomson, Abraham Odoh and Matty Daly saw Harrogate deservedly end their seven-game run without a home win, despite Jodi Jones replying with a spectacular free-kick for the visitors.
That proved the only highlight, though, for an off-form County team, who have now lost six of their last eight fixtures.
Such was Williams’ frustration that he could barely be heard during his post-match interview having shouted himself hoarse just quarter-of-an-hour into the contest.
“The performance was terrible to be quite honest,” he seethed. “If you want to play for a big club like Notts County, you can’t be scared to play football.
“Nor can you play with such a lack of energy and be so soft defensively. For their first goal, we allowed them to run into space and have a shot no problem and I lost my voice after 15 minutes because I was screaming at the players to react to the turnovers. So, it was very hard for me to communicate after that, not that anyone was listening to me.
“We didn’t make enough forward passes and ended up with our goalkeeper having the ball too many times and Harrogate were very well-organised. But, then, when he had to play it long, nobody wanted to fight for it.
“I feel really hurt and so disappointed because, even when we got back in the game, we then immediately capitulated for their third goal.”
Harrogate boss Simon Weaver hailed his side’s on-field intelligence as they outwitted the one-time Sky Bet League Two leaders.
“It was a good day,” Weaver declared. “We started fast and tried to break and close them down, because we knew we had to stop their flow, as they are a talented team who can cause all sides at this level lots of problems.
“We then produced some good finishes from flowing counter-attacks. We rode the storm after they scored a fantastic free-kick, but it was a perfect response to score shortly afterwards.
“We have got some bright and intelligent footballers who pick up on things quickly during games and you need that when you’re up against a talented coach like Luke Williams who sees things on the pitch and makes changes.”
Daly, who had a hand in all three goals, earned particular praise from Weaver.
“He is growing in stature all the time, which is very pleasing,” the Harrogate chief enthused.
Weaver also hailed the performance of returning promotion-winning hero James Belshaw, who made his second debut for the club in goal after being recruited on an emergency loan from Bristol Rovers.
“He has added to the changing room with his enthusiasm, energy and passion for the club, which has been nice to see,” Weaver said.
“He also made a fantastic stop in the first half that helped change the course of the game.”