The wounds cut deep for Aberdeen captain Joe Lewis as he came to terms with his side’s incredible acts of self-harm at Pittodrie in the Europa League.
The Dons have fallen at the third hurdle again following their exit to HNK Rijeka on Thursday.
But compared to previous campaigns this year’s one feels worse.
In previous years the Dons have gone out with their heads held high. Thursday’s exit felt like footballing self-flagellation.
Two goals conceded from their own attacking set-plays sandwiched Funso Ojo’s needless red card in an opening 32 minutes that were the stuff of nightmares.
Goalkeeper Lewis labelled the play from his side as naïve. No doubt Dons fans have even stronger adjectives following a bewildering defeat.
The Dons goalkeeper said: “We need to grow up and show a bit more experience from the players we have on the pitch.
“Poor decisions at key times cost us and we went out without making it a fight, really.
“The whole night was an anti-climax because we didn’t deliver.
“We shot ourselves in the foot straight away with the goal. It came from one of our set-plays, it was naive. I think we showed a naivety in a lot of our play.
“We played into their hands in a lot of ways. The naivety in ball watching when the ball came into our box after being caught on the counter was the disappointing thing.
“Then the second goal was almost identical.”
One area where Lewis had sympathy was for his team-mate Ojo whose dismissal after 20 minutes ended what was already a forlorn hope following the loss of the first goal 10 minutes earlier.
But he insists it is unfair to pin the blame on one player for the club’s exit.
Lewis said: “Funso was unlucky to get two yellow cards. I didn’t think either of them were standout yellow cards, but it’s European football and referees see things like that as yellow cards.
“That is the fact of the matter, it’s what happens at this level and you have to be aware of it. But as much as there were some frustrating decisions out there, you can’t blame the ref.
“We had 11 men on the pitch when we conceded the first goal. That wasn’t down to refereeing decisions. You can’t lay the blame for being knocked out on anyone but ourselves.”
The Dons players must lick those wounds and come back quickly as domestic matters now become their main focus for the season.
There can be no hangover tomorrow when Derek McInnes and his players make the trip to Dens Park to face Dundee in the Betfred League Cup. A fourth defeat in a row is unthinkable for the Reds.
Lewis said: “We will be favourites to win the game, so it will be about bravery and character to come back from what has been a very disappointing week for us. I know that the character is there. We have the right mentality in the squad.
“The supporters will turn up in their numbers to give us their backing and we have to deliver.”