Old Crossleyans player-coach Ryan Hammond admitted that his side might have to wait another year to mount a promotion challenge after a 13-6 home defeat to Goole yesterday.
The Broomfield men conceded fourth place in Yorkshire Two to their well-drilled visitors, who were avenging a 17-14 home defeat in September.
Crocs are a different proposition to last season, when they were lucky not to go down, but the process of integrating a steady flow of talented newcomers is taking time.
“Errors are to be expected from a new team,” said Hammond, yesterday’s stand-out player with his forceful running at No 8.
“I am confident that we will be a force but we could be running out of time this season.”
Goole dominated possession and territory for the first 50 minutes, bossing the breakdown and asking questions of a fine Crocs defence.
The home side suffered a blow when they lost scrum half Craig Heppenstall with a shoulder injury inside 10 minutes, the long-serving and adaptable James Wainwright coming on to fill the void at the base of the scrum.
While Goole struggled to break through, they did earn penalties. Stand-off Rhys Moore missed three shots at goal, none of them easy, in the first quarter.
Crocs continued to give the ball back almost as soon as they had got their hands on it and Moore eventually kicked the visitors in front, with a helping hand from Crocs who were marched back 10 metres for backchat after the award of the penalty on 33 minutes.
Goole continued to knock on the door before and after half time and Moore put a well-struck drop goal attempt wide before Crocs at last got their act together.
Winger Gareth Sweeney’s penalty successes on 51 and 60 minutes book ended a lengthy spell on attack and gave the Crocs an undeserved 6-3 lead.
Goole’s response was impressive. They gathered the ball from their restart and were held up over the try line, forcing a five metre scrum. Unceremoniously driven back at the set piece, they were surprisingly awarded a penalty and hooker Kyle Hall forced his way over for the only try of the game on 65 minutes.
Moore converted and then added an excellent drop goal on 69 minutes to give the visitors a seven point lead.
Crocs continued to be hampered by poor passing but pressed hard late on with two of their new arrivals, full back Callum Dunne and ex-Halifax Vandals back rower Martin Hamer, continuing to show up well.
Goole had two players yellow carded in quick succession as they desperately tried to hang on and Crocs created an overlap deep into added time but a panic pass resulted in the ball going into touch.