His bottom lip was stained with blood as he fought through his frustration to speak to the media.
Richard Wood was at a loss to explain why Rotherham United had defended so poorly after making such big strides in manager Kenny Jackett’s first two Championship matches in charge.
“The mood was excellent beforehand,” he said quietly. “We were up for it. The feeling in the warm-up and dressing room was good, just what it needed to be.
“I don’t know why we went out and were like that. From the defence, it just wasn’t acceptable.”
The centre-half’s swollen mouth was evidence of the battle he’d been in against a Preston North End side as organised as ever but with more quality than most people expected.
The effort, with maybe one ignominious exception, was there. The performance wasn’t.
There is a real will among Millers for Jackett to succeed at New York Stadium, a feeling that they have absolutely the right man for a very difficult job.
Rotherham remain bottom of the Championship, without a win in 12 matches and eight points away from a place of safety. The die was cast by previous encumbent Alan Stubbs in the summer and the 13 league games before Jackett’s arrival
Saturday was a step back after two forward, but the new boss has had only a fortnight at the helm and it will take much longer to right the wrongs he has inherited.
No-one was blaming Jackett for Stubbs-style defending.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
The bugler’s Last Post hung evocatively and movingly in the cold Rotherham air, the minute’s silence was impeccably observed. Remembrance Day ceremonies at New York.
Both sets of supporters did their clubs proud as the stadium stood as one to honour brave service people and fallen heroes.
Red and white ballons were released by young Millers and Preston fans to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and the 100th league fixture since the Millers’ new home opened in 2012.
After the emotion, the pragmatism. Jackett will work and work during the international break on the division’s most porous backline. “We need to find a defensive set-up to take us forward,” he said.
Wood and company know that drill after drill is coming until the requirements of Jackett, a renowned defensive coach, are fixed in their minds.
Lest they forget.
Two softly-conceded goals in five first-half minutes put Simon Grayson’s men in control.
Jordan Hugill glanced in a 22nd-minute header from Greg Cunningham’s left-wing cross and five minutes after that Callum Robinson headed home after clever trickery from Aiden McGeady on the same flank.
Wood, unconsciously dabbing at the gore still creeping from his wound, wanted to take the blame for the first goal, saying he was flat-footed and his man got across him. But both deliveries should have been stopped at source.
Jackett acted at half-time. Dominic Ball had looked what he was, a centre-half playing in midfield, and striker Dexter Blackstock had been utterly ineffective. Nothing went right for Ball, but at least he was giving his all.
Both men were pulled, 4-4-2 became 4-1-2-3 and, with Peter Odemwingie showing real class in a left-sided attacking role, Rotherham fought their way back into contention.
Odemwingie’s lovely, deft ball into the box was headed in by Wood in the 71st minute and, although North End were quick, slick and could have added to their tally more than once on the counter-attack, it seemed a point might not be beyond the Millers.
Then, 10 minutes later, grim irony. Right-back Marnick Vermijl had been brought on to stiffen Preston at the back during the home side’s best spell yet he was the man in the right place to convert from a tight angle following Daniel Johnson’s surging run and cross. After the Last Post, Rotherham hopes dashed at the back post.
Odemwingie was the bright spot on a day of disappointment. Some players Jackett has been left, it has to be said, don’t look good enough for the second tier. The one he has brought to the club himself plainly is.
Odemwingie was sharp, his control was excellent, his weight of pass perfect. In one half, the 35-year-old ex-Premier League player had more impact than Blackstock has had in three starts.
His creation of the goal was exquisite, but problems elsewhere meant it received less attention than it deserved.
Wood, who has good-naturedly taken plenty of stick for his Millers dry spell lasting more than two seasons, didn’t even want to talk about his first goal for the club. “It doesn’t matter, does it,” he said. “We lost.”
He departed, head bowed, his fat lip strangely summing up the state of the defence Jackett has the job of sorting: battered ... bruised ... leaking.