Linfield need to quickly move on: Jamie Mulgrew
Institute v Linfield, Danske Bank Premiership, The Brandywell, Today, 1pm
Skipper Jamie Mulgrew insists Linfield don't intend to brood over Monday's heavy defeat by Dundalk.
David Healy's boys travelled across the border with high expectations of becoming the inaugural Unite the Union Champions Cup winners, but they were blown out of the water by the dominant Lilywhites, who racked up an astonishing six goals without reply for a 7-1 aggregate victory.
The manager bravely attempted to deflect the criticism away from his players by taking responsibility for the defeat, questioning himself, his team set-up and his selection policy.
But the reality is that the Blues were outfought, out-thought and totally outplayed on the night.
Straight-talking Mulgrew admitted it isn't a performance that should be associated with Linfield Football Club.
"We were poor," he said. "The goals we gave away were dreadful - free headers, players unmarked, no challenges. It was terrible.
"I'm not into making excuses, we were just not at the races and probably made them (Dundalk) look good.
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"Yes, we had a few changes to the team, but that is no excuse. It was a bad night at the office and, to be honest, a bit of a wake-up call for us.
"It was probably my most embarrassing situation in a Linfield shirt. I haven't had many, if any, 6-0 defeats since I joined in 2005.
"It wasn't a display that should be associated with this club.
"We were all gutted the way that tournament panned out, but we can't afford to dwell on it. We are now back on the domestic front, we've got the league title to defend and a League Cup semi-final to negotiate with the Irish Cup to come in the New Year.
"There is plenty to play for and there will be plenty of fight in us."
Mulgrew has warned the Blues that they will need to be at their best when they make the trip to the north west for today's early kick-off (1pm) at the Brandywell against an impressive Institute, who have improved immeasurably under new boss Sean Connor.
"Credit to them. I think they were tipped for relegation along with Warrenpoint Town," added Mulgrew.
"After the start they made, it was difficult to see where they were going to get points from.
"But in such a short period of time, they have really upped their game and every player deserves a massive amount of credit for the results they have got.
"They have really recovered and it's not just teams around them in the table that they have taken points off, they've matched the likes of Crusaders, Ballymena United and Glentoran.
"It's basically the same personnel, so it just shows the difference a new manager can make to a club.
"The players are all buying into what he wants to do. We are under no illusions how tough a game it will be for us. It will be a test of character but we must get back on the horse again after what happened in Dundalk."
Mulgrew insists the early kick-off time - for security reasons - will not affect his team's preparation.
"We'll meet up early on, we did it last year and we got a positive result up there," he added.
"It's not an issue, it shouldn't be something that will affect us.
"We have to be focused on winning.
"Obviously, we are now three games behind most teams. It's important we climb the table and just play the game in front of us.
"We've still got Ballymena United, Larne and Dungannon Swifts in arrears. They'll be tough midweek games when they come around, but there is no point in looking too far ahead.
"We must tick off each game as they come.
"Our priority is to retain the league title.
"You could say we are sitting in a good position at the minute, considering we've three games in hand, but I'd much rather have points on the board.
"We've been victims of our own success in many ways.
"But I've said it before, this season is the most competitive league that I can remember.
"There are no easy games, you can't take anything for granted or show any disrespect to anyone."
Meanwhile, midfielder Aidan McCauley has signed a professional deal with Institute.