CHIPPENHAM Town manager Mike Cook blasted his players’ performance during their FA Cup qualifying exit to Hastings United, stating it was the worst of his entire tenure.

The Bluebirds lost 1-0 in the third qualifying round to the East Sussex outfit – a team that plays two tiers below them in the Isthmian League South East Division – despite having a man advantage for the final 10 minutes following Kenny Pogue’s rifled shot shortly after the break.

Chippenham were heavy favourites to progress to the fourth qualifying round and put themselves within touching distance of a first round proper spot, but a highly underwhelming performance put paid to those hopes.

Cook said he was left most disappointed by his side’s uncharacteristic style of play after they went behind and was at a loss to explain why it happened.

He said: “We just weren’t at the races on Saturday. They were better than us, which is a terrible indictment of the way that we played, apart from the first 20 minutes where we did alright and we knocked it around.

“But once they got their goal in the second half, we went too direct, we were pushing balls up front straight away, and it wasn’t us with the way we play.

“That was probably as disappointing as the performance – I told the players afterwards, that was probably the worst performance they’ve produced since I’ve been at the club.”

Cook went on to explain that not only was he frustrated by his own team’s under-par display, but that one of the main reasons the defeat hurt so much was down to the low quality of the opposition.

The Bluebirds boss said: “We had six players out through injury or illness which didn’t help us, but I didn’t want to be using that as an excuse because we should still be beating a team like that two divisions below us.

“A team that, to be frank, were poor. They were not a good team, and that’s what grinds on you, the fact that they’re not a very good team.

“They just out-battled us, they played a little bit more football than us – which was disappointing – and then got the goal.

“Once they got the goal, they shut up shop and became very difficult to break down. All the things we said to the lads in training came to fruition for them.”

Chippenham will hope to return to winning ways on Saturday when they take on Welling United, who have recently been taken over by former England caretaker manager Peter Taylor.