McCartin calls on his players to hang on in there to retain fighting chance of staying up
HEAD coach Paul McCartin is hoping his Derby side can give themselves a chance of survival going into the new year.
Derby reach the halfway point of their National League Three Midlands campaign this weekend – and are still looking for their first win.
They are rooted to the bottom of the table with only four points – 19 adrift of safety.
However, McCartin insists that all is not lost just yet.
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"Our December games are big for us and we need to get something from them just to hang in there," he said.
"If we can get the gap between us and the team fourth from bottom into single figures, we will be in with a shout right up until the end of February or the middle or March.
"We can still pull it back at this stage – but we need to start delivering.
"We've come close but not managed to get over that finish line yet.
"After this weekend, we will have played all the teams in the division.
"There are a couple of decent sides but in all our matches, there have been spells where we have been as good as them.
"It's just been that extra bit of experience and quality which has allowed them to get over the line."
Tomorrow, Derby take on the team currently just above the relegation zone, Scunthorpe, at Haslams Lane.
Scunthorpe have won five of their 12 league games so far – but are yet to taste success away from home.
Although Derby were knocked out of the NLD Cup by Midlands One East side Ilkeston last weekend, they have performed well in their previous couple of league outings.
Indeed, a fortnight ago, they came the close to breaking their duck before being edged out 23-20 away to Longton.
"Scunthorpe have been a bit hit and miss so far this season," said McCartin, whose side visit Newport (Salop) and host leaders Sutton Coldfield before the festive break.
"And they don't have a particularly good record at Derby.
"However, they will come here full of confidence, because of our plight.
"For me, it is a must-win game – we have to start picking up points
"The Ilkeston game aside, our last two league performances have been good.
"We didn't deserve to lose at Longton."
Derby had a string of first-teamers missing for the Ilkeston cup tie.
The likes of Ed Hutchinson, Charlie Esberger, Pete Wilcox and Luke Frixou could return after being unavailable last week.
Andy Brown (groin) and Simon Long (back) are injury doubts and look likely to miss out.
"Scunthorpe are a pretty seasoned side at this level now and will be tough to turn over," McCartin added.
"Sometimes, it is a case of horses for courses.
"Conditions at Longton were a bit of a leveller. Also, they had a few players missing and weren't particularly firing.
"Scunthorpe will be a different proposition, so we have to think about the way they play and how we can win.
"I expect the pitch to be sticky and conditions could level things out again.
"It's that time of year and we've got some big games in the run up to Christmas."