Manager Stuart McCall says his side must stop shooting themselves in the foot, as he assessed the 2-0 away defeat at Bradford City.
Jack Payne opened the scoring on 10 minutes, with Eoin Doyle netting from the penalty spot midway through the first-half as Bradford emerged victorious.
McCall told iFollow Iron: “We gave away two absolute schoolboy goals today.
“We started the game really well and in a confident manner. Funso (Ojo) had a long-range shot, we had a couple of corners, and then another shot charged down.
“We started in a positive manner against a side that were on form and had the crowd behind them. We quietened the crowd and then gave a terrible goal away.
“Charlie (Goode) tried to control it at the back – similar to last week at Doncaster – and they broke away and scored.
“After that, George (Thomas) had a great effort which he chipped over the crossbar and they had a lift from the goal. The second goal was a Christmas present.
“The first goal is so important, especially when you’re down at the bottom and in a relegation fight. If it’s one from 30 yards you have to hold your hands up, but the ones we’ve given away are absolutely giving us no opportunity to win football games at this moment in time.
“Lundy (Matthew Lund) was out today and we have other injuries, but there are no excuses for the way we’re defending. There’s absolutely no excuse for the goals we’re giving away. We can work as much as we want on the training ground, talk as much as we want and prepare the players as well as we can – tactically, mentally, physically. I’m not passing the buck here because I’ll hold my hands up to any criticism that comes my way, but when we keep giving goals away like are we’re just not giving ourselves any chance at all to get a foothold in a game or win a football match.
“I’m sure the players are feeling the same. We’re in a game and then the next minute, bang bang. It was the same at Doncaster last week, two unbelievably poor goals. Today was just ludicrous.
“We are lacking in certain areas and have been for most of the season. The injury list has been hard for us to take with a lot of senior players missing, but the level of goals we’ve given away this season would probably be an insult to schoolboys to be honest.”
One positive for McCall was the performance of academy product Levi Sutton, who started in central midfield.
He added: “Levi has played for this club as a right-back for the last two seasons since he’s been a pro, and I see his energy and desire, and with Lundy out I just thought we needed that energy in there because they have a lot of good energy in there.
“He did a job against (Lewis) O’Brien, who’s a very good player for them in the first-half, and then tried to look after Payne in the second-half. He was one of the shining lights. I thought Clayton (Lewis) did well when he came on as well, and it’s certainly food for thought.
“We probably could have brought different personnel off (at half-time when Rory McArdle and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson were replaced) but we went to a back three. Rory had been booked anyway and the way they were playing was causing problems (that could have led to a further booking).”
The manager provided an update on midfielder Lund, who missed the clash against the Bantams.
He said: “I don’t think it’s good news on Lundy. I’m not sure on the full extent of what it is, but there’s a degeneration in his knee. It needs some injections as there’s a small hole. It doesn’t look like it’ll be short-term but I don’t have a timescale on that yet.”
The next challenge comes against Luton Town on Boxing Day, with United looking to bounce back from the loss at Valley Parade.
He said: “It’s raw at the minute to talk about that but they’re another good side. I’m quite clear in my mind about what needs to be done now. It’s the first time I’ve said this, but January can’t come quick enough for the squad and for the club. Nobody is working harder than the Chairman, Jim (Rodwell) and Lee (Turnbull) behind the scenes to strengthen us.
“We didn’t expect to be where we are at this moment in time because of the poor run we’re on but we need to keep trying to get the best out of the players. We had some really strong performances today but when you keep giving goals away, it sucks the life out of everybody. Not only that, it gives the opposition a lift, with the crowd they have here to get behind them. It was another hard afternoon.
“The fans deserve far, far better. They travelled in good numbers and were encouraged with how we started, but I keep reiterating and going over the same things. It’s like a broken record from the week before. We’re not giving ourselves a chance in games.
“We’re in tomorrow and we just have to be as focused and bright as we possibly can – no matter how low we’re feeling, because you can’t afford to feel sorry for yourself. We’ll be at it and will be as prepared as we possibly can for Luton. Without passing the buck, I just hope it’s Luton giving presents away and not us on Boxing Day.
“We’ll have to see how Funso (Ojo) is after 90 minutes today but the squad is what it is. When you have a bigger or healthier squad you can make changes but with the lack of numbers it’s getting difficult by the game with the injuries we’re getting to select a settled side or formation. It’s something I have to deal with and I look forward to putting out a team that can get a victory.”
See much more from Stuart McCall and Funso Ojo on iFollow Iron. Click here to sign-up.