Survival hopes slim but Scunthorpe Rugby Union Club will continue the battle against relegation
CANDID captain Tom Foster admits he is finding it tough to keep struggling Scunthorpe RUFC motivated in the midst of what he describes as the most difficult period of his time as skipper.
Relegation from National Three Midlands for the Greens went from being a concern to probable at the weekend as they were beaten 30-15 at Syston in a game built up as being the club's most important of the season.
Scunthorpe are now 12 points adrift of safety – and the Leicestershire club also have a game in hand – with just six games of the season remaining.
Foster admits the picture looks pretty bleak, but he is determined to lead from the front as the Greens prepare to drink in the last chance saloon.
"It's the most difficult period since I've been captain, certainly," the influential fly-half, in his fifth season as Scunthorpe skipper, said.
"When you're winning games it's not hard to motivate players because everyone is eager to get back out week on week.
"At the moment, we've lost seven games in a row and the players are low on confidence.
"But there's six games to go, so it's important we regroup and focus on those games.
"We've got loads of potential in this team, but so far this season we haven't really realised it.
"I do believe in the players and I believe in the ability of the squad.
"This league has become more difficult over the last couple of seasons and we've maybe found it difficult to move forward.
"That said, I still believe we can get out of trouble.
"It's going to take a big effort and we might need a little bit of luck along the way, but I certainly think we can do it."
Four wins from those six games will be enough to guarantee survival according to Foster, who predicts rivals Syston will only win one, at best, of their final seven matches.
Achieving that feat though, he concedes, needs a 'big turnaround' given 'over the last two months, performances haven't been good enough to pick up wins'.
Defeat at Syston was indicative of the problems Scunthorpe have endured since they returned to the National League in 2010 – a lacklustre opening, which saw them 17-0 down at half-time.
Overriding their sluggish starts has become difficult this term because the Greens have not scored enough points, with the three tries they managed in the second half at Barkby Road more than they had mustered in the previous three games.
"Whereas in the past we've been scoring almost at will in previous seasons, this year we've found it a little bit more difficult to cross the whitewash," Foster said.
"If we go points down it's seemed more difficult to get back in the game.
"We seem to be turning over too much ball, our lineout hasn't done particularly well recently and we don't seem to have been able to put the same back line out all season.
"Those things combined mean the team has lacked cohesion. That's the reason why we haven't scored as many points.
"We need to come out of the blocks faster and if we're in the game in the second half, you've at least given yourself a chance of picking up bonus points.
"That's what's cost us this season."