Neal Ardley lightened the workload for AFC Wimbledon players – and still lost Will Nightingale and Harry Forrester for Saturday’s derby at Charlton.
Attacker Forrester was ruled out with a groin injury while centre-back Nightingale withdrew with a hamstring strain on Friday.
“The worse thing was we gave them a light week,” said Ardley.
“We didn’t even overwork them. We tried to get their legs back and lost two to muscle injuries. “With Kwesi [Appiah] and H out, you lose that little bit of spark going forward.
“When a team is down there struggling, normally the goals come when you are not cohesive and fighting for each other. People don’t do the leg work – I don’t see that with my team. “They’ve worked their absolute socks off for this club.
“These are tough times. I’m not going to hide from it. But it’s a competitive league and there is an element of reality.
“I hear a lot of Premier League managers talking about the reality of football – how every club and fan has a distorted view of where their club should be. We’re fighting hard, we’re competitive.
“I look at our team and considering the size of the budgets and the clubs, we’ve given them a tough game and just come out the wrong end.”