Neil Aspin was left devastated on Saturday afternoon as Vale suffered a heavy defeat at home to table-topping Lincoln City, blasting his side’s defending from set pieces.
Harry Anderson opened the scoring just three minutes into the game at Vale Park before the Imps inflicted further damage by finding the net on five more occasions.
Vale did pull two goals back through Tom Conlon and Ben Whitfield, but it was a day to forget for Aspin’s men.
“On the scale of things, you couldn’t get a more disastrous afternoon than the one we’ve had today. You can’t stand here as manager and say anything positive after that,” Aspin said.
“To concede early in the game and to let in five goals from set pieces is frustrating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in a game at any level.
“Considering all of the work we’ve done during the week and the fact we had height in the team to combat that, it’s just unacceptable the way we’ve defended.
“It’s very hard to speak following the game and it will take some time to get over it. I’ve been in football since I was 16 and I can’t think of a day where I’ve felt worse than this - watching from the touchline was torture.”
The Valiants did go into the game with several key players out injured, with Tom Pope and Manny Oyeleke being the most notable absentees as Aspin was forced into making changes.
With that in mind, the manager was expecting a very difficult task against strong opposition in Lincoln, but he insists there are no excuses as Vale were victims of their own downfall on the day.
He said: “I knew that we were struggling before the team was selected because we had personnel out injured who we can’t afford to be without.
“Any team going into a game with six players that you can’t select will be put in a difficult position, but having said that, anybody who goes out on the pitch has a responsibility to do a job.
“There are no excuses. Yes we have injuries, but that shouldn’t affect the outcome of the game to the extent that it did out there today.
“There were enough experienced players in there to be sorting things out on the pitch, but they haven’t done that.”
Vale now have a quick turnaround as they face Middlesbrough Under 21’s in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night, and Aspin wants to see a vastly improved display.
Ricky Miller scored the only goal of the game to help the Valiants to all three points at home to Burton Albion last week in the same competition, and Aspin is demanding a response from his team.
He said: “I would’ve thought that anybody playing on Tuesday against Middlesbrough would be up for it.
“If they didn’t play today they should be desperate to do well, and if they did play they should be wanting to put right their performances.
“From that point of view, it’s an important game on Tuesday now.”