WALKING round the Reebok saying thanks to the fans after an afternoon of crushing disappointment did not come easy to Dougie Freedman.

Not one to wear his heart on his sleeve, there was, nevertheless, a distinct tone of regret in the manager's voice as he summed up 90 minutes of frantic football, which leaves the club staring at another season in the second tier.

Freedman applauded the fans for their role in the club’s rise up the table but felt a degree of frustration that the team had not been able to negotiate the final hurdle, giving them a level playing field in the final four for the play-offs.

“Walking round that pitch at the end was one of the hardest things I have done,” he said. “The support was fantastic so I didn’t mind clapping, but for no achievement at the end, it’s not something I like to do.

“I understand you have got to show your appreciation, but it was hard to do because I want to be achieving things.”

Freedman caused a stir with his team selection on the day, bringing in Rob Hall for his debut and adding Tim Ream and Craig Davies to the line-up that had drawn at Cardiff City.

The manager stood by his selection plan but hinted at a frustration that the players on the pitch did not adapt in the way he would have liked.

“They controlled midfield and of late, especially at home, if we can get two in there and our front four on the ball a bit quicker then maybe we could hurt them,” he said. “But it backfired on us. Some people can’t act on information so you have got to change it and maybe make it more simple.”

Freedman was in contact with what was going on elsewhere, making several formation changes in the last 15 minutes to try to react with events at the City Ground.

“It was a difficult day but we kept on going for the win. We pegged them right back which was credit to us after being 2-0 down. We could easily have given up. But our spirit got us back in the game and we had a couple of chances.

“Then you get the news from the other end which is difficult to take.”