David Healy admits Linfield need to raise their game “considerably” when they meet Cliftonville in the Toals County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night.
The Blues laboured to a 1-1 draw against Carrick Rangers at the weekend courtesy of an Aaron Burns equaliser five minutes from time.
Healy was quick to label his side’s performance as “lacklustre”, and has called for added focus against Gerard Lyttle’s Reds at Windsor Park.
“The performance on Saturday was below par – from start to finish we were lacklustre,” the new Blues boss said.
“We know we will need to raise our game considerably for the visit of Cliftonville.
“If our desire and level of performance is not right on Tuesday night, then we will get found out. I will be drumming that into the players before the game.”
Cliftonville remain unbeaten under new boss Lyttle – a run that extended to eight games with Saturday’s goalless stalemate with Coleraine.
Healy is under no illusions as he prepares to take his side into battle with their Belfast rivals in the Shield quarter-final at Windsor.
“Tuesday is a big game and I am looking forward to it. I know Gerard well, and have a lot of respect for him. I played with him at Under 19s and 21s, so I know him well,” the former Northern Ireland striker said.
“He actually texted me when I took the Linfield job, and I texted him when he got the nod at Cliftonville. So I am looking forward to the challenge.
“It will be a big game with a big crowd, so hopefully my players can stand up on the night and deliver.
“Cliftonville are on a good run of form. They have a new manager and have raised their game as a result,” Healy added.
“Tuesday night would be a good time for us to click into form.
“It is a good game to get ourselves back on the road that I want this club and this team to be going.”
In Tuesday’s other two Shield fixtures, Ards FC host Larne while Ballymena Utd travel to Crusaders.