There were several super heroes in the crowd on Saturday but Paul Cook couldn’t find any on the pitch.
As the Reds fans celebrated their final away clash with their annual fancy dress outing – Popeye, Super Mario and Shrek among those on show at the Memorial Ground – Cook could find no reasons to laugh in the dressing room after the game where he admitted he had read the riot act.
Cook has been patient with the players, knowing injuries and the closing of the loan market have hindered his options since March.
But, when he has given players the chance to shine and earn a contract for next season like on Saturday, he felt they had let him, themselves and the fans down as the Reds suffered their worst defeat of the season – and took Cook’s tally of goals conceded in his 16 games in charge to a unhealthy 32.
"I will never be openly critical of individuals," said Cook. "We win and lose as a team but players are what make managers great and last week I was a great manager because we got a good result against Shrewsbury.
"This was more or less the same team but we get beat heavily. What’s changed? The mentality of the players. That’s what sets out the better players, the ones with the stronger minds. They can have equal talent but we need players with strong minds as well.
"Some of them switched off, they thought they have done enough for the season.
"It’s disappointing as we have been involved in some really good games recently but that certainly wasn’t one of them."
He added: "In football, a lot of the problems at the top level are managing players’ egos and it’s the same all the way down.
"If they have an ego they do not turn up with the desire to play football and you won’t win games with them. It’s simple.
"There were some lads who deserve credit out there but we huffed and puffed while Bristol Rovers were clinical and will be a big threat next season.
"We have young lads and there will be a period of change coming up and, if people want to be a part of it, we can’t keep going away from home and getting beat like that."
Cook has yet to win on his travels, losing six and drawing two of his eight away matches and he showed that, after having a transitional period where he settled into the club following his February appointment, he is now not prepared to put up with performances like this.
There was only one change from the team who had battled so hard and came close to beating promoted Shrewsbury with Will Hatfield replaced by Micah Evans.
But the Reds were never in it from the off with Pirates winger Mustapha Carayol running the show down the flank. He charged through the Reds defence with ease at times, playing in the opening cross for top scorer Matt Harrold to get in front of Toto Nsiala to head home.
The Reds were shellshocked as number two followed 11 minutes later when Carayol went on a mazy run and Peter Murphy blocked his path in the area to gift the home side a penalty, with which Harrold made no mistake.
It could have been more with Eliot Richards having a free header and another Harrold chance before the striker turned provider, firing the ball to Andy Dorman on the edge of the area to rifle the ball first time past Ian Dunbavin.
Twenty-nine minutes gone, 3-0 down and some of The Gas fans were talking about improving on the 7-1 scoreline they enjoyed in their previous game at the Memorial Park against Burton while Postman Pat and Elvis in the Reds crowd were certainly shook up.
Rovers’ defender Cian Bolger had an effort turned onto the bar by Dunbavin as every attack looked like it could result in a home goal making it a long afternoon for Cook and co.
To be fair to the Reds they didn’t stop hunting for an opening and it was a bit of luck when Rovers keeper Scott Bevan turned Kevin McIntyre’s corner into his own net for Stanley to claw one back.
And the Reds could have closed the deficit down to one goal by half-time when Padraig Amond rounded Bevan but he forced the striker out to a tight angle and the Pirates defence got back to clear off the ball off the line.
After the break Amond had another great chance when he got in front of his marker but Bevan thwarted him with a super point-blank save.
At 3-2 anything could have happened but instead it stayed 3-1 and Rovers went straight down the other end where Matt Lund was left unmarked to tap home for the fourth.
"We want five’ chanted the home fans and sub Lund duly obliged.
The Reds still kept going and young sub Marcus Carver, making his Reds debut, was desperately unlucky not to celebrate a first league goal when it looked like he had taken the ball around Bevan but the big keeper managed to stick out a hand to stop what would have been the high point of an otherwise low day.
Carayol had an effort blocked while Bevan denied Amond at the death with relief at the final whistle that it was over.
"We are not converting our chances and we can’t keep a clean sheet," added Cook. "The stats don’t lie.
"In the latter end of the season my hands have been tied in terms of personnel but going forward we have to address it.
"Our supporters were great, they were vocal throughout, and I feel for them."