Defeat to Championship-based Portadown at Shamrock Park left Crues boss Stephen Baxter delivering “an apology to the travelling fans" and with words of warning for his players about the hard work expected towards a positive response in today’s latest road trip.
The knockout cup blow arrived off a league defeat in Coleraine and share of the spoils with Glentoran as Baxter attempts to get back on track against a side he views the season’s “surprise package”.
“When you make catastrophic mistakes at the back and gift two goals to the opposition you make it very difficult,” said Baxter on the official club social media platforms following Tuesday's cup exit. “The simple rules of football are you don’t let anything in behind you, you put the ball in the back of the net at the other end and win football matches and you compete for the ball.
“We haven’t been good at any of that tonight if we’re being brutally honest.
“For me, it’s an apology to the travelling fans who have come down to cheer the boys on and watch us.
“You expect more from your team, more effort.”
He continued: “I’m really disappointed for our fans.
“I said to the lads afterwards I’ve been doing this a long time and the least that you have to do is compete in a football match with all of your heart.
“And, for me, we haven’t done that tonight and that’s disappointment for a Crusaders team.
“You’ve got to earn the right (to win) and we didn’t and that’s a huge disappointment.
“Loughgall have been the surprise package and done exceptionally well.
“They’ve given everybody a game...scoring goals for fun and mixing it with all the top teams very, very well.
“It will be a really tough game for us on Saturday.
“They’ll be fit and fresh, ready to play and we’ll have to lick our wounds, get back in and work hard in our training and get ready to play a very big match away from home.
“I’ll be looking a big response from our players and a focus and a hunger...we’ll be going to Loughgall looking to see a real Crusaders performance and I’ll expect to see it.”