The belated cold snap and subsequent cancellation of games has had a concertina effect on the National One run in which has now been transformed from a series of short, sharp bursts of fixtures with several gap weeks, to a single slog to the bitter end.
That offers the West Midlands bottom feeders Birmingham & Solihull Bees and Stourbridge the chance to build the momentum they will need if they are to avoid an ignominious relegation. But equally things could snowball out of control in no time.
Bees’ situation is parlous. They are bottom of the table, 20 points from safety with only nine matches to go. A second demotion seems more than likely.
Stourbridge occupy the final relegation spot although they too are adrift, 13 from the Plimsoll Line having played a game more than most of their rivals.
So as the 2011-12 campaign draws to a close, unprecedentedly poor for these two clubs in the professional era, what are their their chances of pulling off a Great Escape?
The Story so far:
BEES: The current non-vintage is a side as lopsided as the one that was hammered in the first season in the Championship.
However, where the 2009-10 side was weak in the forwards and as sharp as a tack out wide, this time the reverse is true. Bees are long on power in the pack and short on pace in the threes.
Bees undoubtedly have the forwards to survive at level three but their backs have let them down.
In the last 12 matches, the men behind the scrum have produced just eight tries, primarily because they never recovered from the loss of mercurial scrum half Warwick Lahmert, the only player capable of regularly getting behind opponents.
STOURBRIDGE: On paper Stour are as strong as almost any side in the league. Unfortunately for them points are awarded for potency not potential.
On the occasions I have seen them Stour have worked as hard as their opponents up front and looked dangerous in the wide channels.
Certainly it is difficult to see what’s missing from a backline that includes centres Ben Barkley and Tom Jarvis and winger Nathan Bressington. The obvious answer is that their half backs haven’t turned possession and territory into points, though one must remember scrum and fly halves are the on-field representatives of coaches.
BEES: It wasn’t beautiful but after losing their first two games in mismatches with Ealing and Jersey, Bees recovered to bludgeon Cinderford and Wharfedale, with their forwards allowing Dan Hawkes to kick them to consecutive victories.
The performance at Portway against Blaydon will probably go down as their best of the season so far as the pack tenderised the opposition and the backs exploited the space to score four tries in a 31-18 victory.
STOURBRIDGE: Bressington has rattled along at virtually a try a game, although Neil Mitchell admitted his side were not harnessing his quality often or effectively enough.
Centre pairing Barkley and Jarvis are a well-balanced iron fist and velvet glove combination. And it all seemed to have worked itself out in the run up to Christmas when Stour finally looked the sum of their constituent parts in winning three of four matches.
BEES: Defensively there have been a couple of horror shows, most notably at Sedgley Park where they conceded 55 points to a side that did little more than run straight.