It's win or bust territory for Linfield but we still believe: Waterworth
Striker Andy Waterworth believes today's league showdown with Cliftonville at Windsor Park is a must-win game for stuttering Linfield.
David Healy's boys' Danske Bank Premiership title defence is hanging by a thread after last weekend's horror show against Warrenpoint, who grabbed a point with the last kick.
If anything, Matty Tipton's braves deserved more. But the result meant the Blues slumped further behind leaders Coleraine, and the champions now have no margin for error.
Barry Gray's Cliftonville arrive boasting an excellent record having lost only once in their last 12 outings in all competitions.
Waterworth agrees the Blues were out of sorts last week, but insists they realise the importance of this game.
"It's a must-win for us," said the striker. "We are not playing to our potential and we are being punished for every mistake.
"We put together a good run going into games against Coleraine and Glenavon, which we knew we had to win - we had the proper mentality. But we never reached that level against Warrenpoint. We made the wrong decisions at the wrong times. We defended poorly as a unit and they deserved their point. It wasn't good enough.
"People look at it as a disastrous result for us but, in fairness to Warrenpoint, they pushed Crusaders, Cliftonville and Coleraine to the wire, so they deserve a bit of credit."
Waterworth, however, reckons the Blues can claw their way back into title contention.
He added: "We have two games in hand, so they are now key. Cliftonville will be another massive job. They have crept up into third place, practically under the radar. Everyone is talking about Coleraine, Crusaders and Glenavon but no-one ever mentions the Reds.
"They probably have one of the best strike forces in the country in Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly. They could probably walk into any League One side in England, and they are backed up by Jay Donnelly and Daniel Hughes.
"I'll be coming up against my work colleague Stevie Garrett, so bragging rights are up for grabs."
With the transfer window about to open, Waterworth believes the Blues squad will be strengthened. Healy has already snapped up 27-year-old striker Kurtis Byrne from St Patrick's.
"I'm sure the gaffer will have a few irons in the fire," added Waterworth. "Kurtis has been training and he looks sharp. Hopefully he'll give us a bit of a lift.
"It's no secret that we were a strong unit last season, especially in the final three months. We just haven't reached that level.
"But we haven't given it up - we are keeping the faith. We have to put points on the board."