COACH Nick Carter remains upbeat about Golden Square's chances of again being a major Bendigo Football League player in September, despite his side's start to the season that has the Bulldogs with their lowest tally of wins after round five since 2004.
The five-time defending premiers sit in sixth position on the ladder with a 2-3 record in what has been a season so far of both near misses and close wins.
Following a round one loss to Strathfieldsaye in the grand final rematch, the Bulldogs have played four tight games where they could have been staring at a 0-5 record, but on the flipside, they haven't been far off being 4-1.
Since the Strathfieldsaye game, the Bulldogs have beaten South Bendigo by a point and Kangaroo Flat by six points, before suffering back-to-back losses by seven points to Gisborne and the returning Kyneton.
The Bulldogs are the first BFL team since Sandhurst from rounds 11 to 14 in 2003 when the Dragons defeated Gisborne by nine points and then lost to South Bendigo (one point), Maryborough (four) and Eaglehawk (six) to be involved in four games decided by a single-figure margin.
"I wouldn't say we're in a hole... there's clearly an adjustment that needs to be made with the change in the make-up of our side, both from a structural perspective and a bunch of younger footballers we have this year," Carter said on Wednesday.
"That has meant we've needed to change our thinking around how we manage and lead the group, and we as a coaching staff have put a lot of work into that, and the leadership group has had some good discussion about how we can make some subtle adjustments to the situation we're in now.
"From my perspective, the goals still remain the same as what were set at the start of the year, but we really will be tested in our ability to get through this tough phase over the next three or four weeks, which will determine how we set ourselves up for the rest of the year."
The Bulldogs were hit with the loss of premiership experience after last season, with a much younger Golden Square competing this year.
However, further pressure has been placed on the Bulldogs' youngsters with last year's coach Rick Ladson yet to play a game and captain Simon Rosa suffering a broken hand, while boom recruit Corey Jones only played his first match of the season last Saturday after recovering from a practice match fractured cheekbone.
"We'd obviously like to have a few more wins, but we're keeping it very positive through this period and we've had some tough discussions with individuals and different parts of our team," Carter said.
"I'm very positive that over the next few weeks we'll come out of that adjustment phase and be playing some really good footy."
Golden Square will be at home to the winless Maryborough at MyJet Oval this Saturday.
For the second week in a row, it presents a BFL club with a chance to end a lengthy Bulldogs' hoodoo.
Kyneton's seven-point win last Saturday was its first over Golden Square since 2005.
Maryborough hasn't beaten the Bulldogs since round seven, 2004, when it won by five points.