Scott Parker struggled to hide his dissapointment on Saturday as Fulham's six-match unbeaten run was brought to an unceremonious end by Gerhard Struber's Barnsley at Craven Cottage.
To add insult to injury, it was an ex-Fulham striker in Cauley Woodrow who had a hand in all three of the goals, scoring two and assisting one. Barnsley's excellence, however, did little to mask the sub-par performance from the hosts.
After Leeds United prevailed against Bristol City, it has put a serious dent in their automatic promotion bid with three points now separating Fulham in 3rd from Leeds in 2nd.
Parker began his assessment of the debacle by apologising to the fans who braved the relentless conditions of Storm Denis to show their support.
“I am shocked, I am bitterly disappointed, I am gutted. I didn’t see it coming. The fans have come here, they didn’t see it coming, and I can only apologise for the performance today because it wasn’t what we’ve come to expect, but sometimes these things happen," Parker told the Fulham media.
"There’s excuses that can be put in place but those excuses also apply to Barnsley; the conditions, the wind, a three-game week," he said. "Barnsley had exactly the same and they’ve come here today with a real intent about them."
It was a day to forget for goalkeeper Marek Rodak, who was culpable for a couple of calamitous errors that directly led to goals. His reckless tug on Jacob Brown in the 24th minute led to a penalty, and it would not be the last time the Barnsley forward embarrassed Rodak, as - when Woodrow's long ball sent Brown bearing downing on the penalty area - the Slovakian suffered somewhat of a rush of blood to the head as he raced off his goalline and Brown side-footed into a half-empty net.
Parker acknowledged the errors, and avoided being overly-critical. He did, however, demand a reaction as Rodak commences training on Monday.
"The biggest challenge for Marek now, and the challenge I set to all of them is: during these moments let it kill you, let it burn inside you, of course, but the true character of great teams, great players and great people, is when you come back in on Monday morning and you’re brighter than you’ve ever been, you work harder than you ever have," declared Parker.
"I’m not going to judge Marek today, I’m going to judge him on Monday morning when he walks in the building, and I hope he looks me in the eye, and I hope he shows me from the first minute of training until the end that he’s going to improve and he’s going to keep going."