JIM Duffy says Tuesday night’s derby defeat to St Mirren was the most painful loss he has suffered in a long time — and he’s determined to use the setback as a motivational tool to get his troops back on course.

Ton crumbled under pressure from the Buddies and were trounced 4-1 by the Paisley outfit as they slipped to fourth place in the Championship. 

Ahead of today’s trip to Kirkcaldy to face Raith Rovers, Duffy refused to side-step the midweek disappointment, instead deciding to hammer home to his players that it was unacceptable — and stressing they need to find their feet again quickly.

Duffy told the Telegraph: “Tuesday was bitterly disappointing, there’s no disguising that.

“It’s as bad as I’ve felt in a long time and, as I said at the time, we didn’t turn up.

“It was hard to put your finger on and explain, we’d love to be able to come up with a reason or theory why it happened like a virus throughout the camp — but there wasn’t one.

“But we have to accept it. We’ve had a lot of plaudits this year but we deserve the criticism, myself and the players for Tuesday’s performance.

“We let down the supporters and it’s not often we’ve done that this year. We let ourselves and the club down and there’s no disguising it.

“Football is a game of moving forward. When we’ve done well we haven’t gloated about it or been singing from the rooftops.

“We’ve enjoyed it and moved on, and that’s what we have to do this time - take the punishment, feel the pain and hopefully use that as a motivation to make sure it never happens again.”

Duffy says the defeat also had a knock-on effect – in that it has made the plight of today’s opposition more perilous.

He said: “The fact that it was St Mirren that beat us, in terms of what it’s done to Raith Rovers, has made it even more difficult for us because it’s put them above Raith and made their situation more difficult.

“So that means it’ll be another highly determined opponent we’re playing and we have to be ready for that.”

Duffy acknowledged that his side have been off the pace for the last few fixtures, having not picked up a victory in their last five outings.

The manager believe his men must get back to basics by becoming difficult to break down again, and rediscover their creativity to finish the season on a high.

He said: “We haven’t been firing on all cylinders for a month or so, there’s no question about that.

“That’s something that people might say was always going to happen, or that you’re always going to have a spell in the season when things aren’t clicking.

“We’ve had the Hibs games in between some poor results, so it’s not been a huge amount of time, but it’s still enough to give us a wee bit of cause for concern.

“We’ve not been at our best and it’s been that spark that’s been missing for a wee bit.

“We’re not moving the ball as we would like to do, we’re not taking as much care on it, we haven’t been as creative in those areas, tested the opposition goalkeepers enough.

“So we need to keep improving on these aspects.

“The objective at Raith will be to get back to being hard to beat — be organised, disciplined, keep your concentration, remain focused. Stay in the game and then work towards adding that next level to your team performance, which is the creative spark.

“The players have a strong desire to make sure they get the St Mirren performance out of their system, and the only way they can do that is by being totally committed against Raith Rovers.”