Curtis Davies couldn’t hide his disappointment and frustration after Derby County fell to a 3-1 defeat at Burton Albion on Saturday afternoon.
Liam Boyce gave the home side the lead midway through the first half from close range, but Derby hit back five minutes later when David Nugent headed home from Tom Lawrence’s fine cross.
The hosts, however, went back ahead on the stroke of half-time as Luke Murphy curled a shot past Scott Carson in the Derby goal.
Lucas Akins tapped in Burton's third in the second half before Derby’s leading goalscorer Matej Vydra had an 89th-minute penalty saved by former Rams goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.
Results elsewhere mean that Derby are now out of the Sky Bet Championship’s top six but with four games to play, including a game in hand on their rivals, their destiny remains in their hands.
Davies offered an honest and frank assessment of the match at the Pirelli Stadium by admitting Derby got exactly what they deserved.
He told RamsTV: “We didn’t deserve anything from the game.
“We gave away poor goals and made mistakes. It was a bit of everything really and we came up against that looked like they were the ones fighting for something.
“They looked like the team that had hope; we were meant to be the ones in the top six and like the ones that had lost 5-0 in midweek.
“It is all good and well me standing here and saying it but we’re all very disappointed. They fought for every second ball and we pretty much lost every single one across the pitch.”
He added: “I know it’s a cliché but we need to have a good look at ourselves. We have a week coming up now against teams in the promotion race and if we perform like we did today we’ll get a good hammering and do well to finish in the top ten.
“Burton just wanted it more and were more determined. They rolled their sleeves up and did the dirty stuff. We knew we had to manage the game and the pitch and we ultimately didn’t do that well enough.”
Derby have back-to-back home fixtures next week against sides that occupy a top six spot.
Middlesbrough will head to Pride Park Stadium next Saturday before the re-arranged clash with Cardiff City a week on Tuesday.
Davies says it is down to the Rams’ players to come out fighting on home turf to get the results required to move back into the play-off spots.
He said: “We know it’s still in our hands to finish in the top six but we are giving other teams opportunities.
“We’ve got lucky a few times in recent weeks. Before the two wins in a row we had not won in eight matches and were still in the top six.
“It’s tough to take and we have to come out fighting next week because we have given ourselves a big hill to climb.”
He added: “We want to finish in the top six and it’s down to us now. We need to cut out the silly mistakes and do enough. We want to finish in the play-offs and not stumble in there either so we need to get back to winning ways.”