Grant McCann lamented a lack of cutting edge from his Hull City team as Stoke City ran out 2-0 winners at the bet365 Stadium.
Mario Vrancic’s slaloming effort and Nick Powell’s 30-yard free-kick either side of half-time continued Michael O’Neill’s Potters’ strong home form.
Tyler Smith and Lewie Coyle had the Tigers’ best opportunities – with the latter hitting a post with the game still goalless.
“I thought for large periods of the game we were in control of what we were doing,” said McCann.
“From the outside looking in, it looks like another defeat where we’re not creating enough chances – that’s true – and we’re not clinical enough at the top end of the pitch – that’s true.
“That’s not just the front three, that’s us as a team at this present time. All we can do is continue to work.
“Probably up until their goal, I thought what we were doing was really good. Coyley hits the post, we had a good chance with Tyler, Keane (Lewis-Potter) had a couple of chances. What we were doing was good.
“Then, we made a decision to jump and press (Romaine) Sawyers, he flicks it around the corner and they’re breaking against us.
“We tried to defend it – the players are giving everything – but for whatever reason, Vrancic gets out of two tackles from Alfie Jones and Lewie Coyle and the ball’s in the back of our net.
“I thought we started the second half quite well and there was an opportunity for us to get a free-kick on the edge of their box; it was great play from Mallik (Wilks) but the referee doesn’t give it.
“At the other end, he gives a soft free-kick that a top-quality player like Powell sticks into the top corner.
“It’s backs against the wall then and you’re trying to change the game to get back into it but we didn’t do it.”
George Honeyman and Josh Magennis were left out of the matchday squad, with McCann revealing: “George came on last week in the Sheffield United game and felt his groin on a pass.
“This was always a risk when someone has been out for so long – little things pop up you least expect.
“His ankle is fine but he’s picked a little niggle up on his groin that will probably keep him out of the next two games.
“It won’t be anything major but hopefully we’ll get him back firing after the international break.
“Josh Magennis, early part of the week, went over on his ankle – that’s why he wasn’t available today.
“It’s frustrating not being able to pick from a fully fit squad yet. There seem to be a lot of knocks and niggles.
“With the Covid situation we had over the pre-season period, we expected some knocks and niggles but probably not as much as we’re experiencing at this present time.”