Paul Sturrock has admitted his Southend players "didn't turn up" for their play-off semi-final first leg at Crewe.
The Shrimpers were beaten 1-0 at the Alexandra Stadium with centre-back Adam Dugdale grabbing the only goal with a header from a set-piece early in the second half.
Only then did Southend begin to threaten the home side and, while they had several opportunities, Sturrock's men now have it all to do at Roots Hall on Wednesday.
"Southend, the way we've been playing lately, didn't turn up tonight" the 55-year-old boss told Sky Sports.
"We were very disappointing all over the football pitch.
"Saying that, in the second half we've got three or four clear-cut chances which would have put a different complexion on the game.
"But I think it's a fair result.
"I didn't think we deserved to win it but I'd have taken a draw going away from here."
Asked if he could explain his side's disappointing display against opponents who finished three places below them in League Two, Sturrock said: "If I had that knack of knowing that we wouldn't have a bad game.
"There were two or three players not at their usual standards tonight, our passing went awry too many times.
"Second half we were a wee bit better, a bit more up for it, we got in the right areas.
"But over the piece I thought it was a fair result."
Despite the defeat, Sturrock has not given up on the prospect of turning things around in front of their own fans.
"It's half-time now," he added. "I've talked to my players about how we played today. It's all on 90 minutes at Roots Hall now.
"We're going to have to be thoughtful in our approach and make sure we don't leave the back door open but at the same time we're going to have to be positive getting the ball in the box and putting pressure on their defence."