Crewe Alexandra midfielder David Fox says the players were hurt by criticism from manager Steve Davis following Saturday's defeat at Peterborough.
Davis said some players had "thrown in the towel" following the League One strugglers' 3-0 loss at London Road.
"When the manager starts questioning your effort, that's what hurts the most," Fox, 32, told BBC Radio Stoke.
"But he's bang on - the performance left a lot of questions open and we have to try and put it right."
Crewe's fifth defeat in a row leaves the Alex now 15 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table with just six games left and facing a near-impossible task of avoiding relegation.
Fox knows the situation is extremely difficult and says he is desperate for the team to at least show more character until the end of the season. "We're going down with a whimper at the moment and that hurts the most," he added.
"If results mean we go down at some point, at least go out fighting. It hurts your pride, it hurts your credibility. Every minute of every day it gets to you and that's how it should be."
Wholesale changes to follow?
Crewe face the short trip to local rivals Port Vale on Saturday knowing that defeat would almost certainly send them down. And Fox, who admits that "home truths" had been said in meetings with the manager this week, would not blame Davis if he decided to make radical changes.
"If the manager makes 11 changes on Saturday, I don't think anyone could argue with that," he said. "There's 20-odd players that realistically could all play.
"The manager's within his rights to play anyone now. You've got to put in a performance to prove you can play. I've got a lot of mates who are Port Vale fans, so I'd love to put one over them. But it's a real test for us."
The Alex go to Vale without a victory in 11 matches, having won just once in four months. But Steve Davis's side are unbeaten in three visits to Vale Park - and even won the last two.