Stand-in skipper Liam Noble has accused some of his Hartlepool United teammates of hiding when the chips are down.
And the midfielder has challenged Matthew Bates’ squad to step up to the plate and end a three-game losing run in the FA Cup this weekend.
Ten-man Pools were humbled at Bromley on Saturday, with their National League rivals running out comfortable 4-0 winners at Hayes Lane.
It was a performance Noble has described as “schoolboy”, as well as hinting that over-confidence has crept into the Super 6 Stadium camp.
The summer signing, trusted with the armband in the absence of Andrew Davies, wants a reaction against Gillingham on Saturday.
“Schoolboy football is the only way I can describe it,” said Noble.
“It fell to pieces in the first half, never mind the second – it was shocking. From giving the pen away it was an uphill struggle.
“From Loachy all the way to the strikers we were not good enough.
“We will see who wants the ball, what people are made of.
“A few people were hiding on Saturday. They didn’t want the ball. They want it when things are going well but that wasn’t the story at the weekend.
“When we are playing rubbish we will see who wants the ball against Gillingham.”
Having got off to a decent start to the fifth-tier campaign, after a positive summer, Noble feels that maybe everyone has got a bit carried away with the season so far.
“Maybe we think we are ahead of ourselves, maybe we have taken the foot off the gas,” he said.
“Maybe we went down there thinking it was going to be an easy game because we have been doing well but that result shows what this league can do to you when you think like that.
“You never know the right answer really - people will say we are not fit enough or didn’t work hard enough, but that’s not the case.
“If we were fit enough and worked hard enough four or five weeks ago when things went well, or at Wrexham, nothing has changed now.”
Noble says the Pools players have taken the praise when it’s been offered, now it’s time to have broad shoulders and take the criticism.
He said: “We have had all the praise when things have gone well, now we will have to accept the abuse that comes our way. Fire it in because we will have to take it on the chin.
“I don’t think we went there to take the opposition lightly but it felt like that when we were playing.
“We just weren’t good enough - there’s not really much we can say.
“Any team can beat any team.
“This could be a wake-up call to the lads. Are we really as good as we thought we were? It could be the kick up the backside we need.”
Noble has gone as far as to issue an apology to punters who made the long trip south.
“All I can say is sorry. Apologies to the fans who travelled all that way because we were a shambles.
“They have come and spent their money and watched that rubbish. It was not good enough.”