Walsall boss Jon Whitney wants his players to react positively when they host League One strugglers Shrewsbury Town at Bescot on Tuesday night.
The Saddlers shipped four second-half goals to suffer their heaviest league defeat of the season at Bradford City on Saturday - and Whitney is looking to them to "man up" after the 4-0 loss.
"If you don't care, you don't change things," he told BBC WM 95.6.
"There were a few harsh words but sometimes you need to have them."
Whitney, whose side lie six points behind second-placed Burton with a game in hand, added: "Promotion is just words, but you have to turn those words into action.
"They have to man up. They need to show me who's ready for the fight."
Whitney asks questions of his players
Whitney's team selection to face Shrewsbury was going to depend on how his players responded to his immediate post-match inquest at Valley Parade.
"Places are available on Tuesday," said the interim Saddlers head coach. "I'm going to see who wants it. I'm going to see who's hungry.
"I need to make decisions after looking at it with a calm head. But I've asked them: 'Did you really do enough to challenge Bradford City? Did you do enough to want to get promoted? Were you willing to put your head on the line?'
"Sometimes that's what you have to do. It's not always about playing pretty football."
Tuesday's team news
Whitney has the option of bringing back fully fit-again defender Jason Demetriou against Shrewsbury.
He can also bring back 18-goal top scorer Tom Bradshaw, who has started the last two games on the bench, to face his old club.
Whitney is also wary that local rivals Shrewsbury upset another promotion-chasing side on their own ground on Saturday, winning 3-2 at Gillingham.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro's fortuitous late winner ended an untimely run of seven games without a win to leave Micky Mellon's side four points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand.
Victory for Shrewsbury would guarantee League One safety with two games to go.
The Shropshire side expect to have midfielder Ian Black fit after injuring his neck in the final minute on Saturday, but fellow midfielder James Wallace (knee) and defender Jermaine Grandison (hip) are big doubts.