MARK Nelson has urged his Rossendale players to win their 'mini league' and not let their season peter out.

The Marl Pits side began the year as an outside bet for the play-offs but six successive defeats has seen Dale slip from fourth to ninth in the table.

Dale have been rocked by a string of injuries to key players while they have had to go to three of the top four sides in the North Premier - two of them played on plastic pitches.

But Nelson insists his side still have plenty to play for and a string of good results between now and the end of the season could seal Dale secure a top six spot.

"We've got six games left so I have told the players to treat it like a mini league and see what happens," said Nelson whose team host bottom-of-the-table Wilmslow on Saturday. "The last thing I want it just for our season to peter out. There are 30 points up for grabs, we are probably not going to get that many but we can still finish in the top five or six if we can string some wins together."

Vale kicked off 2019 with a narrow 36-25 defeat at Harrogate - a match they were just minutes away from winning - which Nelson said had a baring on the results that followed.

Since they, they have been beaten at home by Sandal (27-10), lost on the artificial surfaces at Billingham and Blaydon - second and third in the table respectively - and slipped to disappointing defeats to Ilkley, Wirral and Sandal.

"We were just four minutes away from beating Harrogate and I think if we had won that game it could have been a lot different," added Nelson, who is also coach of Lancashire.

"We always knew we had a tough start to the year, going to all the top teams in the division.

"It could have gone one way or the other but, unfortunately, after that Harrogate defeat, it did not go the way we wanted."

As well a tough run of fixtures, Dale have lost the influence of Phil Mills, Lewis Allen and Simon Walker while several other players are playing injured.

"At this level of rugby, luck plays a big part," said Nelson. "And the luck usually centres around having full and fit squad of players to pick from.

"We haven't managed to put our a settled side since the turn of the year and have had to call players in to the squad and rely on others playing while they are not fit.

"Basically whatever could go wrong has gone wrong

"It's easy to trot out every excuse a coach can you but this is rugby and you have to get out with it."

Four of Rossendale's last six games are against teams below them in the table - but that throws up another set of problems.

"We play a Wilmslow who are bottom of the table who come here with no pressure and freedom to play and that can be dangerous," said Nelson. "We then go to Kendal who are fighting for their lives to stay in the division.

"But we have to back ourselves in these matches, do as well as we can and see where we are at the end of the season."