Roberto Martínez refused to write off Wigan Athletic's survival prospects despite conceding they had squandered "a unique opportunity" with a calamitous home defeat by Swansea City.
Wigan remain three points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Newcastle, with only matches at Arsenal away and Aston Villa at home to play, after a dreadful defensive performance gifted Michael Laudrup's team a 3-2 victory. Martínez blamed the tension of the night and injuries to key defenders for the errors, and his fitness problems ahead of the FA Cup final on Saturday were compounded when the substitute Ronnie Stam suffered a suspected broken leg.
Roger Espinoza and James McCarthy twice put Wigan ahead only for mistakes from Gary Caldwell, James McArthur and others to allow Swansea a first win in eight matches. The visiting goalkeeper Michael Vorm suffered concussion when he collided with his team-mate Ben Davies. Vorm was, however, expected to fly back to south Wales with the squad.
"It is a difficult moment," said the Wigan manager. "We were so excited about the game and aware we had a unique opportunity in front of us against a team that hadn't won for a while. The real frustration is the way the game developed. The manner of the goals we conceded does make it more frustrating. I thought everything was under control in the first half. But the second half and the goals we gave away meant it became a very, very difficult game to play.
"The many injuries we have at the back showed tonight; we played sloppy balls and made bad decisions. You can see the effort of the players but sometimes we made it difficult for us to be ourselves. Swansea played in a relaxed attitude, which can be difficult to play against, but we shot ourselves in the foot. The second goal was a bad decision and after that the players couldn't be themselves and started to feel that they had something to lose."
Martínez insisted the defeat and the club's perilous position in the relegation zone would not impact on Wigan's first appearance in an FA Cup final, against Manchester City. He said: "Wembley will pick the players up. Everyone is down but the occasion will get us ready. It will prepare us mentally and emotionally and we still have a fantastic opportunity to get six points." The Wigan manager also claimed defeat did not signal the end of Wigan's eight-year stay in the Premier League.
"The team is ready to bounce back and take opportunity over the next two games," he said. "We missed an opportunity tonight but we have got incredible character and are determined to fight for every point. There are six points to fight for – we have to learn from this. We got a very good victory at Arsenal last season and we have to do exactly the same again. Six points would give us a real chance."
Stam had been on the pitch for only a matter of minutes when he went down following a heavy challenge. And Martínez, who has lost the defenders Antolín Alcaraz, Iván Ramis and Maynor Figueroa, plus the midfielder Jean Beausejour, said: "We will check Ronnie tomorrow but it seems it is a broken leg. He couldn't put any weight on it, so he will need a scan tomorrow to find out exactly what it is."
For Laudrup, victory enhanced Swansea's prospects of adding to their Capital One Cup triumph with a top-10 finish in the Premier League. The Swansea manager said: "It is very pleasing to win again after a few months of draws and losses, mainly because it is possible to finish in the top 10 which, with the trophy we have won, would make this an amazing season. The top 10 is important because it gives you something to build on. It is much nicer to be the last team on page one of the table on the TV than the first team on page two."