All is not lost for Aberdeen Grammar in their Premiership survival prospects and its a message head coach Ali O’Connor is reiterating.
Grammar trail second-bottom Jed Forest by 10 points and have played a game more. Musselburgh, in eighth, are three points better off, having also played 10 games.
O’Connor’s side face Glasgow Hawks at Rubislaw on Saturday and Marr travel to the Granite City the following weekend. Co-captain Nat Coe said last week the club had reached the “do-or-die” stage after their run of defeats, which stretched to 10 after the 21-14 loss to GHA a week ago.
“There’s plenty of games left to catch up and I don’t sense from the players that it’s lost,” said O’Connor. “There’s no point looking beyond the next game.
“The players are doing great and we’re still getting great numbers at training. I can’t fault them for effort. We still feel Lady Luck is not with us at the moment, but we’ll still keep chipping away.
“This season has brought home the importance of pre-season, making sure players are available and getting a good run of games. It’s really brought that into focus and, as a club, we need to sharpen that up.
“We were slow out of the blocks and that’s had an impact. I think everyone else has come out of lockdown a bit quicker than us and that’s a lesson for the coaching team.”
The games either side of the festive break may also prove crucial. Grammar head to Jedburgh on December 11 and host Musselburgh on January 8 – win those two games and an extraordinary escape may still be on.
But Grammar can ill-afford to stall any longer on getting off the mark. The onus is on them to ensure the story of this season has a happy ending.
“Nobody is out of sight yet,” added O’Connor. “We’ll keep going until it’s mathematically impossible and even beyond that.
“It would be a massive testament to the players’ commitment if we were able to get out of it. It would be right up there with winning the cup (in 2019).
“We were in a horrific position in my first season in charge with four games to go and managed to stay up. It would be nice to be secure with four games to go but I sense it will come down to the last day of the season.”
Ben Inglis and Cammy Scott should be available after suffering knocks against GHA, but Greig Ryan and Mark New may miss out through injury.
O’Connor is looking for improvements in two key areas this week: set-pieces and their defensive efficiency, feeling it cost them last time out.
“We were too easy to carve open in defence and were just not in the right positions to make tackles,” he added.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to work on for a long time and we’ve not had as good results as we would want. There’ll be a little tweak here and there and, if we can do that, we’ll be a really competitive team.
“On Saturday we only won 26 per cent of our own ball at the lineout. That’s going to be a real handful as you’re going to spend a lot of the game defending. You can’t defend for 80 minutes as a team.”