Reasons to be cheerful have been few and too far between for Otley Director of Rugby Peter Clegg this season, but he remains optimistic that the visit of Cambridge to Cross Green in Round Four of the EDF Energy National Trophy on Saturday (January 17) will give rise to a more positive mood in the camp.
"With any disrespect to Cambridge in any way, it is a game I think we can do with at this stage of the season and one I'm looking forward to," says Clegg: "When you're banging away every week in such a competitive division as National One it's easy to start questioning whether you've progressed as a team.
"It will give us a chance to see whether we've come on. Certain aspects of the league we're in have now moved on. Not long ago we were top of the division below and losing only three games in a season - now we've only two wins so far and inevitably the lads are looking over their shoulders and wondering whether they've gone backwards.
"Cambridge are a team we respect and it will give us a good chance to see where we are. We beat them home and away last season, but they have recruited and are stronger outfit now, so we know what to expect.
"We're definitely a better team than we were last year, but the level of competition is much harder and it's extremely difficult. This game is a chance to demonstrate just where we are as a team and that we haven't gone backwards at all - simply that we're playing against a different class of opposition.
"Our player situation is a lot better than it has been, so having been struggling very badly in the backs, we now have a more comfortable look about us now. I'm looking for the game to be a barometer of where we are and I'm looking for a good performance. I'm sure Cambridge will be thinking along similar lines, so it should be interesting."
Bridging the gap and emphasising it will be the challenge at other venues, not least at Sedgley Park, who entertain Kendal.
The Cumbrians need to step up a couple of levels to progress, but they cannot expect to catch their opponents off guard, as they did in winning at Blackheath in the previous round. Then the men from Rectory Field sought to deploy their resources to cover a two-match programme, but they underestimated the men from Mint Bridge and paid the price.
Park will not be making the same mistake and, like Otley, will be aiming to underline the difference in quality between the two divisions.
Manchester, bottom club in National One, will be on exactly the same quest when they entertain another Level Four side, London Scottish, while Dings Crusaders face the biggest challenge of all when they entertain unbeaten National One leaders Leeds Tykes in a tie where simply staging a good day and competing well looks to be the summit of realistic West Country ambition.
Elsewhere the arrival of the Division One contingent in the competition spells out another tough assignment for Preston Grasshoppers, who visit Exeter, and for Blaydon, who travel to Nottingham.
Promoted Tynedale will get an idea of what they need to do to step up another level when Bedford travel to the North East, whereas the other pairings know exactly what to expect as all-National One ties see Plymouth Albion travelling to Doncaster and Rotherham entertaining Coventry.
Meanwhile the race for Twickenham will be contested with every bit as much passion in the remainder of the EDF Energy competitions as the possibility of a place at Twickenham becomes increasingly tantalising.
The three other tournaments for grass roots clubs - The EDF Intermediate Cup and The EDF Senior and Junior Vase competitions - are all now well advanced and the pressure of a place in the showpiece is starting to mount as junior clubs see their dreams turning into an achievable goal.
EDF National Trophy, Round Four: Dings Crusaders v Leeds Tykes, Doncaster v Plymouth Albion, Exeter v Preston Grasshoppers, Launceston v Birmingham & Solihull, London Welsh v Newbury Blues, Manchester v London Scottish, Moseley v Henley, Mounts Bay v Esher, Nottingham v Blaydon, Otley v Cambridge, Rotherham Titans v Coventry, Sedgley Park v Kendal, Tynedale v Bedford. Sunday (January 18): Penzance/Newlyn v Southend.
EDF Energy Intermediate Cup, Round Four: Burton v West Hartlepool, Luton v Dudley Kingswinford, Newport (Salop) v Maidenhead, Walsall or Sheffield Tigers v Middlesbrough, West Park (St Helens) v Sandal.
EDF Energy Senior Vase, Round Five: Kirkby Lonsdale v Old Brodleians, Scarborough v Percy Park, Sunderland v Tyldesley, York v Widnes.
EDF Energy Junior Vase, Round Six: Barnsley v Goole, Leeds Metropolitan University v West Park Leeds, Oldershaw v Hullensians.