Linfield manager David Healy is expecting his players to bounce back against Ards tomorrow afternoon at Windsor Park.
Healy was fuming after their 5-2 loss to fellow title contenders Crusaders on Monday night and that defeat means the champions sit a massive 10 points behind leaders Coleraine.
The former Northern Ireland front man, who is looking for a response against Colin Nixon’s side, admitted he was embarrassed with the loss to the Crues.
“I’m slightly embarrassed by the way we went about most of the game (against Crusaders) and we let a lot people down,” he said.
“I thought the supporters were magnificent and one thing that they did try to do was get behind the players, but we let them down.
“The only good thing is we have 27 games to go, we are miles behind and we have a mountain to climb and I will ask the players publicly now have they got the hunger, desire and the passion?”
“I have it, the staff have it and publicly I will take responsibility for this defeat but somewhere along the line I am going to need a little bit back from the players who we give the contracts to and have a firm belief in.
“But I need a little bit back off the players because they get everything off me, everything off the staff that we have, everything off the board with those contracts so now I am asking them publicly do they really, really want to be successful this season going forward.
“This is not just part of defending a title rather then chasing a team down and I don’t hold with this thing that it’s harder to defend a title because you were the best team last year so it should be easier.”
Healy expects his players to be better prepared in all aspects going into tomorrow’s clash at the National Stadium.
“We need to be better prepared physically and mentally, because at the minute the players aren’t giving me what is expected and maybe I’m going to have to freshen things up.
“ We have two or three players probably not in the squad at the minute, two or three of the younger players who I would love, at the right time to give them their opportunity.
“We put Paul Smyth in at a tough time a couple of years ago, maybe it’s time for some of these younger boys to maybe come in and see how hungry they are because they’ll certainly not lack in effort, enthusiasm and drive, which we lacked against Crusaders.”
Healy is now hoping his players raise their game and more importantly have that cutting edge in the final third.
“We thought, we hoped we had improved on the squad from last year with the names we brought in but that doesn’t seem to be the case at the minute,” he added.
“The players are wounded. I’m certainly wounded, I’m down.
“I’m disappointed but one thing the players can certainly rely on, the club, the supporters is that I will keep fighting and battling until we are successful.
“I will now be looking for a big response, a big response on Saturday.
“We have built up a reputation for clean sheets in the 18 months I have been here but some of the mistakes against Crusaders were basic and very unexpected.
“Possession in football these days means nothing and if you have no cutting edge, no desire to go in front.
“An then against good players you will find yourself behind a, especially the front three Crusaders have.
“They did what they had to do.”