Gary Caldwell was at a loss to explain how his Wigan Athletic side suffered a home defeat to Brighton despite having been ‘in total control of the game’.
Latics dominated the first three-quarters of the encounter at the DW, only to fall behind to a fantastic strike from Dale Stephens midway through the second period.
The home side were unable to rouse themselves in the final quarter, leaving Caldwell to contemplate another damaging defeat that leaves them second-bottom of the Championship.
“Up until their goal, I thought we were a threat,” the Latics boss insisted.
“We didn’t really cut them open, but they’re a team that doesn’t really concede a lot of goals, so it’s never going to be easy to do that.
“But we were in total control of the game.
“In the first half they had an element on the counter, and the long diagonals into (Glenn) Murray that were a threat.
“In the second half I never felt we were going to lose the game - and that’s probably the main thing we have to learn.
“It’s a game we should never have lost, we have to see it out at 0-0.
“If that’s the worst-case scenario, then we take that and move on.
“But to lose it 1-0 is bitterly disappointing.
“If we were being outplayed, I could come in here and hold my hands up and say it’s unacceptable.
“But when I see the players giving as much as they are, playing the way they are, I just want them to believe in themselves a little bit more.
“When they get those opportunities, they have to be a bit more ruthless, they have to have belief in themselves that they can go and score goals and punish teams.
“We’re getting in some fantastic positions, and we’re not getting the rewards that we deserve.”
Caldwell defended his decision to take off star striker Will Grigg at the break in play for the goal - a change that had been in the offing prior to Stephens beating Adam Bogdan from 25 yards.
“I thought he played well in the first half, but in the second half he lost his spark and his sharpness,” explained the Latics chief.
“He had a great opportunity when Michael (Jacobs) passed it in to him in the box, and his control was poor.
“I’ll watch the game again, and I’m pretty sure I’m right.
“If I’m wrong, I’ll let you know.”
Adam Le Fondre replaced Grigg, and was later joined up front by fellow striker Craig Davies - although the switch to 4-4-2 failed to pay dividends.
“I thought it was our worst spell in the game, when we went two up front,” Caldwell remarked.
“And I think everyone could see that it didn’t work.
“The control we had, we lost, so more strikers doesn’t always guarantee you better opportunities.
“I thought up to the goal we were excellent, whereas after we became a bit anxious in our play, we went too direct, and we lost control.”
Caldwell did take off his hat to Bolton-born Stephens for a goal worthy of winning any match.
“It’s a bit of quality in the final third, in and around the box, and it’s what wins you football matches,” the Scot added.
“He took the goal extremely well, and it was one of the very few chances they had in the game.”
One positive for Latics was the return of on-loan West Ham defender Reece Burke after a hernia operation.
“I thought he was excellent,” acknowledged Caldwell.
“For a young player, with not too many games at this level, and to be out for the time he was, to play like that shows you what a top player he’s going to be.”