Manager Steve King took responsibility for Deal’s heavy Kent Senior Trophy Final defeat to Punjab United at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium on Sunday.
The Hoops had come into the showdown on an 18-match unbeaten run and as favourites - only for Punjab to rip up the script in emphatic fashion.
Promising young attacker Jayden Hussain bagged a second successive hat-trick, Paul Vines, William Johnson-Cole and Theo McKenzie also struck for the Gravesend-based outfit while teenage Deal defender Alex Green was sent off in the second period as it finished 6-0.
Plenty of Deal fans were among the massive crowd of 1,851 and King also issued an apology to them.
He said: “It’s a disappointing afternoon - on me. I take responsibility for it.
“We changed a few things with the way we wanted to play today, it didn’t work. Obviously we got behind in the game, they got up a head of steam and they played pretty well, so fair play to them.
“Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong. But like I say, it’s on me.
“We’ve been on a great run. We’ve changed things up today, changed the way we play and, in hindsight and obviously with the result, that was the wrong decision.”
Veteran striker Vines bagged the first goal of the Final before the Hoops conceded from a corner - King claimed it was the first time they had conceded from a set-piece since August!
“We have had a way of playing,” he said. “We changed what we have been doing a little bit.
“They pressed us very high and they, obviously, got the first goal - which I think in a Cup Final - is crucial. We’ve then conceded our first goal from a set-piece since August to go 2-0 down in 20 minutes.
“We’ve then opened up to be expansive to try and chase a game at that point when, maybe, we should have just had 15 or 20 minutes at 2-0. But we’ve opened up and tried to get back to 2-1 and get back into it, and then that’s led to us conceding another couple of goals.
“I made those decisions and I carry the can on them.”
More than 1,000 Deal fans were in attendance and their team could yet still earn promotion from the Southern Counties East Premier Division with two league games to go.
“We’re calm and collected in what we are doing,” said King, whose side visit leaders Erith & Belvedere on Wednesday. “There’s no finger-pointing.
“Obviously, we’ve let down a massive travelling support today. That - as a group - is the most disappointing thing.
“But I’m not going to dig a group of players out that have been unbelievable since Christmas when I’ve made decisions in a game, asking them to do stuff and take risks.
“Punjab probably had five shots in the first half and got four goals. We’ve taken risks and, on another day if you get back to 2-1 or 2-2, then everyone says ‘Well done for taking those risks.’ But today, we went 4-0 down.
“It is what it is, but it’s on me.”
Capping off a miserable afternoon, Green, 19, was shown a straight red card by referee Wayne Horsfall with the score at 5-0 as McKenzie drove through on goal.
King said: “It’s had no impact on the result.
“It just made the last 25 minutes more difficult for us. Again, it’s come about because we’re still trying to chase a game and we had our left-back, Jack Penny, very high up the pitch.
“We gave the ball away and got countered, and the striker got on the wrong side. Even at that point, we were chasing the game.
“I made the shout, I made the decisions and I got them wrong.”
The third-placed Hoops’ final game of the regular league season is against Sutton Athletic this Saturday.