Lancashire head coach Peter Moores blamed a lack of momentum throughout the season for his side’s shock relegation from the First Division of the LV= County Championship.
The Red Rose county’s loss to Middlesex, as well as nearest rivals Surrey winning against Nottinghamshire, confirmed the relegation – exactly 12 months after winning the title for the first time outright since 1934.
But former Sussex and England coach Moores felt that title win came early, and his players have not been up to standard throughout the season.
“We were behind the eight-ball after two games,” he said.
“We didn’t pick up any momentum until our win against Durham but we just couldn’t kick on.
“If anything, last year’s Championship win came a bit earlier than we thought. It’s not easy to win a County Championship. At times this year we’ve let ourselves down.”
Glen Chapple’s team fell way short of the stiff target of 304 from 39 overs set them by Middlesex, being dismissed for 194 to be condemned to at least a season in the Second Division.
When Surrey completed a comprehensive win early in the afternoon, Lancashire had to turn what seemed an inevitable draw at Lord’s into an improbable victory.
With the home side 127 runs ahead with eight wickets still in hand at the start of the day, Lancashire needed early wickets to secure an attainable chase.
Despite the best efforts of Chapple – whose figures of 5 for 47 completed a ten-wicket match haul – Dawid Malan was able to frustrate Lancashire by hitting 95 to steer Middlesex to 265-4, a lead of 263.
A flurry of late wickets prompted the home side’s captain Chris Rogers to declare, setting Lancashire a tough chase to preserve their First Division status for another week.
Steven Croft and Karl Brown briefly threatened a miracle with a brisk partnership of 57 for the third wicket, but wickets fell regularly – Steven Crook grabbing five of them – to seal Lancashire’s fate.
Captain Chapple believes there margins between relegation and survival were small, and feels there does not need to be sweeping changes for the county to bounce back.
The 38-year-old was also quick to dismiss any fears he might be retiring soon, after his teammates gave him a guard of honour when he emerged following lunch.
“I think there are a lot of small things that have gone wrong and I think we’ve got to be careful and look at the things we can actually change, rather than beat ourselves up about the things we can’t.
“The lads were just trying to keep their spirits up – a bit of banter, that’s all. I’m not jacking this in any time soon. I’ll be back next year, don’t worry about that.”
It was more end-of-season pain in London for Lancashire. They missed out on the Championship crown by a fraction in 2007, when they fell 24 runs short of a mammoth 489-run chase against Surrey at the Oval.
Lancashire follow in the footsteps of great rivals Yorkshire by being relegated twelve months after winning the title – the White Rose experienced the same ignominy following their relegation in 2002.