DOUGIE Freedman refused to back down from the damning assessment he gave at Reading last weekend – but expects to see a reaction from those same players against Cardiff City in the FA Cup.

The 7-1 massacre at the Madejski Stadium – Bolton’s worst result in 32 years – prompted the Scot into a scathing attack on the quality of some of the squad he inherited from previous managers Owen Coyle and Gary Megson.

But any suggestion his criticism was blurted out in the heat of battle was rejected by Freedman yesterday, and with no new signings on the horizon, the Whites faces the prospect of throwing the same players out to prove their worth at the Reebok tomorrow afternoon.

Freedman suggested some of his side were “not up to winning games of football in the Championship” and was sticking to his guns yesterday as he heads into a fourth-round clash against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Bluebirds.

“They were strong words but they were my words,” he said. “But they were not emotional words; they were thoughtful and they were the truth. They were honest because that’s how I try to come across.

“Any of my players will tell you they always get honesty with me. I won’t try and paper over anything.

“It is nothing that was not said to their faces. And to be fair to them, they have responded to bad times last season and they can do it again.

“I’m looking for a reaction and deep down I feel I’ll get that. It was a difficult day for everyone, disappointing to say the least. But football grants you that second bite – and here it is.”

Freedman ordered the players into Euxton for a team meeting early on Sunday morning during which he said a handful of players did admit their responsibility in the recent run of poor form.

“We had a meeting on Sunday and it went that way,” he said. “But the thoughts aired on that day will stay private. As you can imagine, it wasn’t for the faint-hearted.

“They stood up and one or two of them did say where they went wrong and that they would be trying their best to put it right for the football club.”

Since Saturday evening, and all the fall-out that followed, Freedman reckons there has been a positive reaction from within the camp.

“As soon as the whistle had gone at 4.50pm, the preparations started for this game,” he said. “We have left no stone unturned this week in dealing with this FA Cup game and the attitude has been first class.

“I’ve found in football that it is never fair – life maybe isn’t fair. But you can only get the best out of it if you play your best.

“So I see this as an ideal game to bounce back. It’s a home game and we’ve played well at home and anyone who knows me knows how big the FA Cup is to me. I’m looking for a response – I want to see pride.”