GENERAL manager Geoff Roberts believes his Sedgley Park team are on the right track heading into the new year despite defeat to Sale FC in their final outing of 2017.

The Tigers lost 20-13 in the local derby in Cheshire but were very much in a tight game throughout against the high-flying hosts with Sam Lowthian scoring a second-half try and Olly Glasse kicking two penalties and a conversion.

And while defeat – a fifth in nine matches on the road – saw Sedgley slip to fifth in National Two North, Roberts remained upbeat going into a two-week break over the last weekend of the calendar year.

He told the Bury Times: “It was a total physical battle at Sale – a typical derby game if you like.

“The ground was really heavy underfoot and that didn’t help us.

“They had the better of the first 10 minutes and a penalty put them 3-0 up.

“It was really tough for both sides to make much headway with defences on top in the game.

“That being said, both teams had a real go at breaking through.

“A second penalty for Sale put them 6-0 in front and it began to look like a game that would be tight all the way.

“On 30 minutes we missed a penalty but then Olly Glasse sent the second one we got over to halve the deficit and we went in 6-3 down at half time.

“To be honest, I was not unhappy with the scoreline at the break.

“It had been an even game and 6-3 reflected that.

“The second half started in the same vein and we again struggled to break their defence down.

“There was one passage of play where we were camped on their line for what seemed like an eternity but just could not get over.

“Then we had a series of kickable penalties but took the option of playing the ball forward to try and get over for a score but to no avail.

“When we got a penalty under the sticks, we decided this time to kick it and Olly made it 6-6.

“It remained that way until around 15 minutes from the end when both teams began to tire and gaps started to open up.

“They made it tell when they scored a converted try after a drive from a line-out.

“Inside the last 10 minutes, they scored again after doing slightly better than us in the scrum.

“At 20-6, the scoreline was harsh on us but we responded inside their 22 and got a try of our own.

“Our winger, Sam Lowthion, picked up a cross-kick aimed at their wide man and after he went past the first tackle on halfway, he used his pace to race clear and score.

“Olly then converted to make it 20-13 and give us a bonus point.

“We could not get another after that and fell just short in what was a typical low-scoring derby match against a good Sale side.

“I could not have too many complaints because the players gave their all.

“It was even for long periods but they just had the edge with the home support behind them and they managed to avenge the loss at our place earlier in the season.

“We slipped down to fifth after the defeat but the two teams above us – Tynedale and Stourbridge – are only two points ahead of us and we are only nine points off leaders Hinckley so there is all to play for in 2018.”

After the blank weekend, Sedgley return to action on January 6 with a home game against sixth-placed South Leicester before a visit to leaders Hinckley and a home clash with Tynedale.

It is a tough start to the new year but Roberts is confident his side can come through it and kick on again, particularly on home soil where they have won all six games so far.

He added: “It is a make-or-break period for us at the start of the year.

“It’s a tough run against those three sides first up and we know that.

“But the aim is to get through that positively and if we do, then on paper it should get easier for us having played the top sides twice with many of them still to play each other.

“We also have nine home games out of the 15 remaining which is another positive for us.

“We will enjoy the brief break and come back ready to go again and start the new year in good fashion.”