DECLAN DEVINE conceded European rivals, St Patrick's Athletic simply had more appetite for the win in Tuesday night's Europa League showdown at Brandywell.
The Saints came from behind with three second half goals in the space of 30 disastrous minutes for the Candy Stripes as they kept alive their hopes of pipping City to fourth spot.
David Parkhouse had handed City a crucial 52nd minute lead - his 19th of the season - but Devine admitted he never felt comfortable on the night.
Derry needed just a single point against the Dubliners to secure that final European place but now must wait until the final day of the season when they host derby rivals, Finn Harps to get over the finish line.
Devine felt few of his players were above average on the night but he remains confident the Brandywell club can finish the job on Friday night.
"We've been poor tonight," he admitted. "It's the first time I can actually stand here and say we weren't at the races for one reason or the other.
"Collectively, as a team, we weren't good enough. St Pat's deserved to win the game," he admitted.
"They were better than us in every area tonight so that's something we have to reflect on. It just wasn't like us.
"Even when we went 1-0 up I didn't feel confident. I thought we were very open and let them have too much of the ball.
"And on another night they probably could've hurt us more. But we gave away poor goals. Really bad goals and we didn't take the half chances we created but overall St Pat's deserved to win the game.
"Fortunately enough we've done a lot of good work early on this season and we're still in the driving seat going forward.
"We've got to lose here on Friday night and St Pat's have to win at the champions on TV so there's a lot of different things that can get us across the line.
"I'd still rather be in the position we're in as opposed to the position St Pat's are in but fair play to them tonight they deserved their win."
It was Derry's second game in the space of four days following a hard fought victory in Sligo on Saturday and Devine agreed his side looked jaded despite a high tempo start to the match.
"Maybe it was the extra day's rest, I'd have to watch it again but it certainly wasn't like the way we've performed all year. It was very unlike us.
"We didn't have too many players who were better than average. We had a couple of decent performances but that's not enough when you're playing your biggest competitors for a European place.
"They came with a better appetite tonight which is worrying for me but I have to back these bunch of players because over the course of the year they've been magnificent and I'm still confident we'll get across the line.
"I'm still confident and have a high level of belief in the players in the dressing room but we made it difficult and made it drag out a bit more. We've now got to make sure we have a better application come Friday night."