Peter Thompson has warned his Linfield team-mates that there is now “no margin for error” as the champions attempt to retain their grip on the Gibson Cup.
Linfield fans are getting increasingly anxious — particularly after Cliftonville’s 3-0 win over the Blues at Solitude last weekend.
That result opened up a 12-point gap between the two cross-city rivals and the form of David Jeffrey’s side ensures that any title talk at Windsor Park is now not on the radar.
It’s pointless because Linfield’s priority is to find some consistency — without that they have no hope of defending their title.
The Blues aren’t even in the top half of the league table after 15 matches — never has the old cliche of ‘one game at a time’ been more true.
What is clear is that the Solitude loss must spark the champions into life — it has to be the wake-up call that ensures when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
The panic button is not being pressed yet but one more defeat will leave the finger dangling precariously over that button.
With Glenavon visiting Windsor Park tomorrow, eight-times capped Northern Ireland international Peter Thompson knows that any more slip-ups for his side could be fatal.
The pressure has been slowly building and only the Linfield players can provide the answer as to whether they can live with it.
“It’s reached the stage now where only a win will suffice for us,” said Thompson. “We need to win every game. The disappointing thing about the Cliftonville game is we needed to win it and we didn’t show up.
“We got what we deserved from that game which was nothing but there is no margin for error now. We have now had the wake-up call and we know what we must do now. There can be no more slip-ups because we are not even involved in any title race at the moment. It’s one game at a time for us because we have not found the consistency needed to win league titles.
“Linfield teams have been good at that over the years but for whatever reason we have struggled this time and it’s a situation we are determined to address.”
Jeffrey’s men were surprisingly off colour in the massive showdown in north Belfast and Thommo acknowledges they must win the battles against their title rivals.
“It was a disappointing result and performance,” he added. “You look to pick up points against the top teams to give yourself a lift while hurting opponents but we never delivered.
“Traditionally though we have come on strong in the second half of the season and hopefully that’s the case.”
Thompson will not be able to go into battle with his sidekick Mark McAllister (pictured) as the Blues hitman must serve a two-match ban. The former Dungannon Swifts frontman was dismissed after a clash with Portadown’s Chris Ramsey and he was also given his marching orders for a stamp on Cliftonville’s Stephen Garrett.
“I’m disappointed for him as you never want to miss matches,” added Thompson. “I’m sure he’s feeling upset about it and hopefully he returns with a renewed determination to do well.
“There are always injuries and suspensions which every team has to deal with so the squad comes into play and the players who come in will have to do their jobs.”
While few supporters would dismiss Linfield’s title prospects at this stage — even with their stuttering start — the fans are wearing a nervous look. And when the players can’t live up to the standards expected at Linfield, the faithful aren’t slow in expressing their discontent.
Thompson knows the score, accepting it’s “part and parcel of life at Linfield”.
He added: “Criticism is a major part of the game and when you are playing for a big club like Linfield it will come your way.
“You just have to deal with it but the players care and they want to be winners. They understand the stature of the club and what it represents. Many have come through the youth ranks and know the expectation levels.
“If you are willing to take the plaudits, then there comes a time when the road won’t be smooth. We all understand that.”