Defeat is massive wake-up call: Andy Waterworth
Linfield players have been their own harshest critics this week and Andy Waterworth pulled no punches as he described the Blues' performance in the 3-0 defeat at Crusaders as "possibly our worst in three years."
Warren Feeney's side were swept aside by the Crues' pace and power and only one side looked like title challengers.
The comfort blanket for Linfield is their two points lead at the Danske Bank Premiership summit and the players will have to absorb the criticism and come out fighting.
Basement battlers Warrenpoint Town, who visit Windsor Park today, could feel the full force of the Blues' anger after their poor display at Seaview.
Waterworth admits plenty of wounds have been licked this week, but while one battle was lost, it's who wins the war that counts.
"We've talked about the game this week and about what went wrong - though we knew already what went wrong," said the Crossgar man.
"Crusaders were the better team all over the pitch and if you cannot stop their full-backs from getting crosses into the box you are going to suffer.
"I wouldn't say it was our most disappointing performance of the season - I would say it was our most disappointing performance in probably three years.
"Everything that could have went wrong did go wrong and while Crusaders showed what they are capable of we did not perform and got what we deserved.
"Everyone knows what Crusaders can do if you let them play and we did that."
There has been plenty of soul searching at Windsor this week and manager Warren Feeney will demand an emphatic response at the international venue, but you cannot win every match in the Danske Bank Premiership and every side is going to hit a hurdle and stumble at some point.
Before the Crues defeat Linfield had won all of their opening six games and Feeney lifted the Manager of the Month gong for August, while Aaron Burns scooped the top player prize.
Crusaders, however, remain the league champions and last weekend's clash was a timely reminder to the Blues that wrestling the Gibson Cup from the Hatchetmen won't be a stroll in the park.
"Defeats like this wake you up and remind you of how far off the pace you can be," added Waterworth.
"Crusaders showed why they are champions while we showed we still have work to do to close the gap.
"It was a bitter pill to swallow for us, particularly after our great winning run, but you sometimes have to tip your hat to the opposition as well and the Crues played well.
"We couldn't manage a shot on target until near the end and that's not good enough.
"You just have to deal with moments like this, put the game behind you and take the criticism on the chin.
"In this game you have to take the criticism as well as the praise.
"Thankfully, we are still top of the league and we should not let this disappointment linger for long.
"It's about bouncing back, but we know Warrenpoint Town will be a wounded animal like ourselves and it will not be an easy game."
Crusaders embark on the long journey to Coleraine hoping to make it six league wins on the spin. Ballymena United, who smashed Cliftonville for six last weekend, host Ballinamallard with teenage hotshot Matthew Shevlin back after his trial at Crystal Palace.
Portadown will be without suspended pair Keith O'Hara and Mark McAllister for the meeting with Dungannon Swifts at Shamrock Park.
A ban also rules out Carrick Rangers midfielder Aaron Harmon from the home clash against Glenavon.