A HEART-to-heart between coaches and players helped revitalise Highland’s season.
Their three-game wobble in October threatened to derail their hopes of promotion from National Three early, as they slipped adrift of the promotion places.
However, stern words between the squad served to refocus the main goal and since then, head coach Dave Carson feels they have played better rugby than they did before the blip.
Highland were beaten 31-19 away to Newton Stewart before losing their first game at the revamped Canal Park, losing a nail-biter 31-29 to Ardrossan Accies.
The run was completed with a 43-17 defeat on the road to St Boswells, at a time when the club were also dealing with delays to moving into their new home.
But since then, they have three league wins and a League Cup fixture against National Two side Whitecraigs, which has got Highland back on track.
“We got thumped in two away games and didn’t deserve anything from them,” said Carson. “We lost the silly one against Ardrossan Accies and it was a strange three weeks, with trying to move into the new club and we didn’t know where we were playing of training.
“But we’ve refocused since then and had a heart-to-heart with the players and everyone was brutally honest with each other. Since then, we’ve played better rugby than we were at the start of the season.”
At the mid-way point of the season, Highland sit in fourth eight points behind the final promotion spot.
Newton Stewart head the table on 51 points with Glasgow Accies three further back. Highland are in a three-team chasing pack with Murrayfield Wanderers, who they host on January 6, and St Boswells.
Players will be in training this week and out a couple of times over the festive fortnight, before normal scheduling resumes in the new year.
Carson has to get his players ready for a huge January, which could well make or break their promotion hopes.
After the Murrayfield game, Highland have back-to-back away games – both potential tricky encounters – away to Hillhead Jordanhill and Gordonians. They round out the month by welcoming Newton Stewart to Canal Park. St Boswells come north on March 3 and the greens head to Glasgow on March 24 for their final encounter against other promotion contenders.
Their final pre-Christmas game against Haddington was called off on Friday night, which Carson believes was a sensible decision.
“They said on Thursday the pitch was playable but there’d be an inspection on the Friday lunchtime,” he said. “It was frozen and we were asked if we wanted a further inspection at 7am on Saturday.
“I was conscious that guys had works Christmas parties they were missing so we decided against it. It wouldn’t have been on anyway – it was still frozen on Saturday.
“There was talk of moving it to another school but I’d rather play them in April when the pitch is firm.”