An embarrassed Michael Appleton tore into his Lincoln players after they produced “the worst performance from any team” he had ever managed in a 1-0 loss at Gillingham.
The Imps were second best at Priestfield, where Mikael Mandron’s first-half strike was enough to earn the Gills all three points.
Appleton, who replaced Danny Cowley less than two months ago after his move to Huddersfield, has presided over just one win in seven league games and said he gave his players the full hairdryer treatment.
He said: “That’s the worst performance from any team I’ve ever managed by a mile. I was embarrassed. I apologise to everybody who came down to the game.
“I thought it was rubbish. It was rubbish in every department: defending, attacking, our quality. There was a lack of aggression and we got schooled.
“There’s lots we can do about it but at this moment in time I’m very, very angry about it. We let them know about it after the game – there was no reaction from the players as they know I’m right.
“It’s surprising as we put in a really good performance midweek against a strong Rotherham side (in the EFL Trophy) and we did ever so well against Ipswich in the FA Cup (last Saturday). I wasn’t expecting that performance and I hope that I never see one like it again.
“They’re going to have to turn that around. I’m glad that we’ve got another game around the corner (the replay against Ipswich on Wednesday).
“There were so many players way below par. Sometimes I can accept it if our passing isn’t quite on, if their first touches aren’t quite at it, but you’ve got to fight your way out of it.”
Mandron’s goal came midway through the first half as he volleyed home from six yards following Mark Byrne’s cross.
Olly Lee twice went close to doubling the lead either side of half-time, while Mandron also hit the crossbar with a header.
Despite their profligacy in front of goal, Gillingham were rarely threatened and boss Steve Evans was left beaming at full-time.
“If you had to pick a word to describe our performance today it would be relentless,” he said.
“We didn’t give Lincoln’s good players the chance to get their talent out of the bag. We did enough to make their performance not so good.
“I was pleased with the quality of our football in the second half. We were dogged in the first half but very good in the second.”
Evans also dedicated the win to Peter Scally, the father of Gillingham chairman Paul, who died last week: “When anybody loses their father it’s heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. The world’s lost a good man in Peter Scally so when I go to mass on Sunday he’ll be in my prayers.”