ROTHERHAM TITANS' captain Joe Bedford remains confident over the club's Championship play-off hopes despite a run of results that has left them looking nervously over their shoulders.
Wednesday's surprise 25-24 reverse at bottom club Birmingham & Solihull made it three straight defeats for Andre Bester's side following recent losses against Esher and Nottingham.
With only two wins in all competitions in the last 11 games, the Titans need to find some form fast if they are to avoid a disappointing end to the season.
South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster arrive at Clifton Lane today for the first of Rotherham's three remaining league games, with next Friday's away trip to Moseley preceding the visit of Bristol to South Yorkshire on February 19.
Having started the season so brightly, Rotherham have slowly gone backwards and now only have a six-point cushion over the bottom four.
But scrum-half Bedford is confident a local derby could have arrived at the perfect time for the Titans to rediscover their winning touch and, in doing so, avenge a 26-13 defeat at Castle Park in October.
"We are not making any excuses," said Bedford. "We should have done better in recent games.
"The busy schedule has really taken its toll on us though and with the guys working during the week as well it makes it even harder.
"There's nothing better than a derby game to get back into it and try to get a win.
"Home advantage is a massive boost for us – our away record has been poor this season but I think we've been excellent at home.
"We obviously get great support from the crowd which really helps us, and the pitch suits our style of play and gives us a great chance.
We are all really disappointed by recent results as we almost got two five-point wins against teams below us which would have left us in a much better position.
"We finish with two home games and one away against a team in the bottom four though so we are really backing ourselves to secure a play-off spot."
Bedford, who returned to Rotherham last summer following a two-year spell at Leeds, admits a little more composure would serve the Titans well.
"The players want it so much and are perhaps trying too hard and making mistakes," added Bedford. "I think the average age of our team is just over 22 at times so we are still learning."
Doncaster make the short trip to Clifton Lane with their status in the top eight all-but assured, barring a bizarre sequence of results.
The Knights' main aim is to build momentum for the play-offs, although director of rugby Lynn Howells said nobody was taking anything for granted.
"Everyone's a little bit on edge about it," he admitted.
"They're excited about the match but they know the side that makes the least amount of mistakes will win.
"It's still mathematically possible for us to not make the play-offs – but it's not going to happen.
"The Plymouth win for us was massive last week."
In National One, Wharfedale host Blackheath hoping to stretch their unbeaten run to three games.
They have made a positive start to the calandar year after a five-game losing streak amid the weather disruptions before Christmas.
Head coach Tommy McGee said: "The lads have turned it around since the turn of the year by playing some good rugby.
"It was a really good performance against Tynedale and then possibly an even better effort at Stourbridge.
"We said at the start of the year that we want to go out and do ourselves justice and show how good we can be.
"We have just got to keep striving to improve and keep going in the right direction.
"The improvement in form is all down to the players. As a coach you set the parameters and put across what you want them to do, and they've gone out and executed it."
Otley have a weekend off.
Fourie set for test run with leeds before duty calls
HENDRE FOURIE may not have recovered in time for last night's Six Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium but he returns to Leeds Carnegie's starting line-up for today's LV Cup match at Northampton Saints.
Leeds's management team have been asked to include the England openside flanker in the dead rubber to aid his rehabilitation ahead of next week's game against Italy at Twickenham.
The 31-year-old suffered a calf strain in the Amlin Challenge Cup win over Bucharest a fortnight ago, but Leeds head coach Neil Back said the club had agreed to give their man some welcome game time to boost his chances of being involved in England's second match of the campaign.
"We have agreed to include Hendre to enable him to get some game time under his belt ahead of next week," said Back, who said he was keen for his team to produce a promising display at Franklins Gardens.
"We have a massive game next Sunday at home against Leicester and we want to go into that game with the momentum of a good performance."