Chesterfield manager Paul Cook was disappointed with his side's second-half performance at Roots Hall, after the visitors conceded three goals in quick succession to succumb to their heaviest defeat of the season against in-form Southend United.
The Spireites held their own in the first 45 minutes against Paul Sturrock's side, but goals from former Rotherham United defender Ryan Cresswell and a brace from Gavin Tomlin after the restart ensured it was 13 games unbeaten for the Shrimpers and ended Town's aspirations of occupying a play-off place on Christmas morning.
And the Liverpudlian was bitterly disappointed with his side's display after the break.
"Our second-half performance was a long, long way from where we want to be," he revealed at full-time.
"We got beat by a lot better team than us tonight. A lot more powerful, a lot more hungry, they had strength all over the pitch and you could see how much they wanted to win.
"We were doing okay [in the first half], losing Marc [Richards] was a big blow and that's no disrespect to Scott Boden. We don't want to lost Marc for five or six weeks again, so we had to make that decision.
"We were doing okay, but you can see at times we lack a physical presence in the team and that's not being critical, it is plainly obvious for everyone to see.
"In the second half, we started okay but had a 10-minute spell and the game was over, it was gone. We're looking for leaders and characters on the pitch and unfortunately tonight we never [had any] and it's not good enough."
The Spireites travelled to Essex having won four of their last five encounters in League Two, but met a rampant Southend side who looked dangerous from the first whistle with Chesterfield-born wide man Kevan Hurst worrying Tommy Lee inside two minutes.
On loan Watford forward Britt Assombalonga went close after both Luis Boa Morte and Jay O'Shea had flirted with the hosts' goal, but Marc Richards was withdrawn as a precaution on the stroke of half-time with a tight hamstring.
And it all went wrong after the break with the visitors shipping twice inside quarter of an hour to ensure they missed out on the chance of moving into the division's much-coveted top seven and following Rochdale's impressive 4-1 win against Cheltenham Town, slip to 12th place.
"We can only thank our travelling support again, it was fantastic," added Cookie.
"Going forward, our agenda doesn't change. We're still trying to get promotion and if we play like we did in the second half that won't happen.
"Tonight was a long way from good enough. We've been very good and you can take the plaudits as manager, but i'll also take the criticism.
"I told the players after the game, 'we win together and lose together' and that will never change. But to play for this club you've got to show character and away from home, it is not always about being pretty and playing well.
"They [Southend] were brilliant, they were possibly the best team I have come up against this year. Great credit to them, they fully deserved the win and they look a good side. If that's the benchmark of what we're up against, then we have got to step up to the plate.
"We have to pick up points over Christmas if we want to be competitive, because other teams will. Playing like we did in the second half, we won't pick up many points, that's for sure."
But in spite of the heaviest defeat of the season so far, Cookie had a message for the fans ahead of back-to-back home games after Christmas.
"Happy Christmas, it won't feel like it tonight," he told the fans.
"They have been terrific, they travelled down in good numbers again a few days before Christmas and it has cost a lot of money for them.
"Tonight was a bad night and as the manager, I stand up. We'll go away and we'll make it better, people know that.
You can watch Cookie's interview in full exclusively on Spireites Player