Lee Clark described Blackpool’s 4-0 defeat at Derby last night as like watching “men against boys”.
The relegated Seasiders tumbled to their 26th Championship defeat of the season against Steve McClaren’s fifth-placed promotion chasers.
And after seeing his side dominated virtually from start to finish, manager Clark admitted the gulf in quality was just too great.
“It was men against boys,” said the Pool boss. “In some patches in the first half we passed the ball quite well, but when you concede a goal like that after three minutes against a team like Derby, you’re always up against it.
“We never got to grips with them. The margin was so big between the two sides.
“I looked at my bench and, without being disrespectful, it was full of boys.
“We had five players who started the season in the under-18s, so it was tough for us to compete.
“They are the future of the club, but against sides like Derby it can tell. The gap between us and Derby was massive. It’s a good learning curve for my youngsters, who are learning on the job, but it’s a real tough one.”
Former Pool winger Thomas Ince was on target for the Rams and striker Darren Bent scored two.
But it was the third-minute, long-range opener by Craig Bryson which angered Clark most.
Pointing the finger at keeper Elliot Parish, the manager said: “They shouldn’t be scoring from 26 yards out when the ball goes a yard inside the post.
“I’m no goalkeeping expert, but I’d think my keeper wasn’t very happy with that goal.”
Two goals in two first-half minutes then killed off any hopes Pool had of recovering from the early setback.
Bent capitalised on Charles Dunne’s slack back-pass for his first goal but Clark was quick to defend the full-back.
He added: “I feel sorry for young Charles as he’s been our most improved defender.
“He’s improving all the time. He made a big mistake but I thought he recovered well in the game.
“He got his composure back and wasn’t done many times, so I was happy with how he recovered.
“He showed me he can react to adversity. I was gutted for him.”