David Jeffrey hopes Saturday’s late collapse against Cliftonville will act as a “harsh lesson” for his players.
The Blues suffered a defensive rocky horror show as they fell to a 4-2 defeat to the champions at Windsor Park.
Jeffrey’s side had demonstrated some steely resolve in pegging the Reds back from their 2-0 lead – but it proved all in vain.
Joe Gormley had the visitors on their way with two goals in the opening 28 minutes, only for James Knowles and Aaron Burns to hit back for the Blues.
But with the game there for the taking, some Keystone Cops defending allowed Reds substitute Diarmuid O’Carroll to bag a late double to claim maximum points.
“If anyone was looking at lessons on how to throw away a game, we scripted the book today,” Jeffrey said.
“On the positives, I thought we totally dominated and bossed the second half, after coming from two goals down. So we showed character.
“But the reality is it was absolutely schoolboy defending.
“Joe Gormley’s first goal was excellent in that he made the spaceand proved how clinical he can be.
“The other three were very poor. I would be doing a disservice to schoolboy football in describing it as schoolboy defending.
“We worked hard to get back in the game, and then we gave it away. It is a harsh lesson for a new group of players.
“This is their first big set-back after coming through Europe and drawing against Portadown. Today they can see exactly where they are compared to Cliftonville.”
The defeat leaves Linfield with just one point from their opening two Danske Bank Premiership fixtures.
Next up is a testing trip to Seaview to take on a Crusaders side who are still searching for their first points of the season.
It is a basement battle nobody would have predicted, even at this early stage of the season.
“It was always going to be a big month, and next week’s game with Crusaders is massive,” Jeffrey added.
“We are desperate for points at any stage. It is no bigger a game next week because of what’s happened today.
“It was always going to be a big test in the opening four games. We did well at Portadown but we failed this test against Cliftonville.
“We now move onto next Saturday and Crusaders.”
Linfield’s fans are set to boycott next week’s game at Seaview – in response to Crusaders’ legal review into government funding for Windsor Park.
Jeffrey insists the diluted away support won’t derail his quest for maximum points.
“The supporters’ boycott will not make next Saturday any more difficult – not in any shape or form,” he added.
“We are going there to play a game of football, and that’s all I am interested in.”
Gormley’s brace appeared to have Cliftonville on their way to maximum points on Saturday.
The striker dispatched a low angled drive past Jonathan Tuffey in the 26th minute before rushing clear of the Blues defence two minutes later to make it 2-0.
Former Cliftonville midfielder Knowles rifled home a superb 25-yard free-kick three minutes later to reduce the arrears.
It was 2-2 in the 64th minute when Burns headed home Knowles’ corner to set up a grandstand finish – one where substitute O’Carroll would take centre stage.
O’Carroll helped home Barry Johnston’s shot in the 77th minute and then completed the win with a delicate lobbed effort in injury time.
“It is a big statement, but it is too early to read anything into it,” said Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin.
“I am delighted with the four goals because we weren’t at our fluid best today. We are still just getting started.
“We are not getting carried away – there are still 36 more games to go.
“It is great to see the players show character. We were under strength today and it is a tough place to come.
“We stood up to the challenge and got the win.”