Accrington manager John Coleman issued an apology to the Stanley supporters who witnessed his side play ‘like a shadow of themselves’ in the heavy defeat at Northampton on Tuesday night.
Coleman’s men were well beaten at Sixfields by a rampant Cobblers team who are now unbeaten in their past 11 games.
Stanley were left to count the cost of nine dreadful second-half minutes during which they conceded three goals to seal their fate.
Meanwhile, Ian Sampson’s Northampton climbed above their visitors into eighth spot, underlining their credentials as play-off contenders.
And afterwards, Coleman - whose side lost 3-0 to the Cobblers earlier in the season - offered an apology to the 67 visiting supporters who had made the long trip to Northampton, and who were in good voice throughout the game.
"We were a shadow of ourselves and the disappointing thing is that that’s happened twice against Northampton," said the Reds manager, who had masterminded seven wins in the eight fixtures prior to the Tuesday night defeat.
"They must be wondering where we’ve been getting our results from because they’ve beaten us twice, but I can assure them we’re better than that.
"The players know that that’s not good enough. The stuffing might have been knocked out of us with the timing of the goals but it wasn’t acceptable and I’d like to apologise to our fans that made the trip."
Northampton led after 10 minutes through leading goalscorer Adebayo Akinfenwa, who pounced to knock in from close range as the ball ran in between keeper Dean Bouzanis’ legs.
Billy McKay’s impressive brace made the game safe for the hosts as he exploited Stanley’s struggling defence.
The first, shortly before the hour mark, saw him cut in from the left flank unimpeded and he curled a fine finish beyond Bouzanis.
McKay’s second goal came just minutes later, after Kevin¿Thornton’s ball. McKay’s first touch set him free and he fired in to the net to seal all three points.
The Reds’ misery was completed by Luke Guttridge’s strike 25 minutes from time.
Guttridge neatly controlled the ball with one foot on the edge of the box and used his other to wrap things up by steering the ball beyond the Reds stopper.
And it could have been worse as Liam Davis hit the post via a McKay deflection and Bouzanis denied Stephen O’Flynn,
It was truly an evening to forget for the below-par visitors, who came closest to scoring when Bobby Grant’s free-kick was tipped onto the bar by home keeper Chris Dunn late in the proceedings.
It summed up Stanley’s night that the referee awarded a goal kick despite the goalkeeper getting a clear fingertip to the curling effort.
Coleman was furious that the attempt was the closest his side got to scoring.
"We were very poor,"he said. "There wasn’t too much in the first half, we conceded a bad goal from our point of view but there weren’t many chances in the game.
"In the second half they’ve stepped up a gear, stepped on the gas and they cut us open too many times and too easily.
"We didn’t work their keeper at all. We had 25 shots on Saturday but the other night he didn’t have to take a cross or make a save and that’s poor for us."
The result has not harmed Accrington’s league position too greatly. They are now a point behind Northampton but have played four games fewer due to their FA Cup exertions, and are only four points off the Coca-Cola League Two play-offs.
But they can ill afford too many more results like Tuesday’s – the impact of that scoreline on team morale will be visible when the side travel to Macclesfield this weekend.
FURIOUS ... John¿Coleman (left) was angered by the Reds’ performance