Linfield captain Michael Gault has vowed that the Blues will come out fighting from 'day one' of next season to regain the IFA Premiership title.
Monday night's 3-0 defeat to Crusaders ended Linfield's mathematical interest in this season's title fight, with leaders Cliftonville now 19 points ahead with just six games to go.
Manager David Jeffrey had already surrendered the Gibson Cup to the Reds, but the loss at Seaview also dented the Blues hopes of overhauling Cruasders in the battle to finish in second place – the Crues are five points better off and they also have two games in hand.
Gault, who has won nine league titles at Windsor Park since 2000, looks back with regret that a poor start to the season left the Blues with just too much work to do when they did discover their best form.
"We've been in the unfortunate position this season where we were always trying to close a gap and although we went on a 16-match unbeaten run in the league we were never able to get close enough to Cliftonville," said Gault.
"You always hope that you can look after yourselves in terms of results, you stay optimistic and hope that gaps can be clawed back, but the gap was just too big
"It's a position that we never want to be in again and next season we have to come out from day one and fight to get the title back.
"You can put it down to injuries, loss of form or blame individual mistakes – and probably that's all been part of it – but the simple fact is that we haven't played to anything like our full potential.
"This season has been a setback for us, but hopefully it's a one-off and we all want to do well in the league again next season."
• DERRY City were left to rue a string of missed chances on Tuesday night as they drew 1-1 with Drogheda United in the Airtrcity League at the Brandywell.
Ryan McBride put them 1-0 up on the half hour mark, but Drogs goalkeeper Gabriel Sava was on top form to prevent the Candystripes from extending their lead.
Drogheda snatched an unlikely point nine minutes from time when Mick Daly headed home from a corner