For Mark Cornwell. the task of captaining Pertemps Bees starts in earnest this week as the talismanic second row tries to pick up his troops for Saturday's unenviable match at Plymouth Albion.

Bees made a positive start to their National One campaign, Cornwell presiding over a draw at Bedford on opening day and wins over Exeter, Sedgley Park and Moseley only to see them steamrollered 31-6 by Rotherham Titans last weekend.

A nagging illness that had prevented him from training before the match against Titans meant Cornwell, a summer signing from Gloucester, watched in horror from the replacements' bench as his side were shoved all over the Sharmans Cross pitch in a brutal first-half display by the visitors.

He was introduced four minutes into the second period when his appearance galvanised a shaky Bees pack but, ultimately, he could not prevent the hosts slipping to a heavy loss that left them shellshocked.

With a jaunt to bigspending Plymouth next on the agenda, Cornwell knows he has to restore belief to a squad still missing several important players.

"We have got to pick our chins up," Cornwell said. "When you lose a game like that, having been going so well, there is a danger you can go on a slippery slope.

"It's my job as captain and that of the coaches to make sure that doesn't happen. We have got some young kids in there with their heads down and we have to get them back up again."

For the 33-year-old, that means returning to the training pitch and putting right some of the weaknesses that Rotherham exposed. Scrummaging and ball-retention will, no doubt, be discussed at length when the Bees players reconvene.

Cornwell said: "You have got to go through what you have been doing wrong. We have got to keep people motivated and enthusiastic and encourage people who are playing that they are not doing as badly as they may think.

"We have got to keep doing what we are good at. Let's not get disillusioned, we played against a good team but we are a good team, too.

"We were fourth in the league, three points off the leaders, we have scored some good tries and got ten points in our last two away games. We can't let our heads sink and I will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn't happen."

But where head coach Steve Williams had lambasted his players for their inability to compete in certain areas, Cornwell was rather more phlegmatic, claiming that Rotherham were simply too good on the day for his side.

"You have got to hold your hand up when you have been beaten by a well-drilled outfit," he said. "They had a very strong set of forwards, a good scrum, a good driving game and they competed well at the breakdown.

"You have to take it on the chin. When you have a scrum that's going backwards it's tough but what can you do if, one-on-one, they are better than you?

"Certain guys were given opportunities and they had to step up and perhaps we could have been more competitive at the breakdown and in the line-out but we have to stick together."

Cornwell will start at Brickfields this weekend and Bees will hope to have centre Dave Knight back in the side.

Flanker Dan Tuohy will have his knee injury assessed later in the week and Williams does not yet know whether full-back Jon Goodridge will be able to continue his loan spell from Gloucester.

Bees will certainly be without Terry Sigley and Casey Dunning, leaving them with only three fit props - Hotili Asi, Matt Long and Emyr Lewis - for one of the more physical encounters of any campaign.

Meanwhile, Bees have complained to local rivals Moseley that lock Mark Gabey was racially abused by a spectator during the derby match last month.

Although the former Worcester man did not hear the alleged comment, it was claimed to have been overheard by some of his teammates and Williams expressed his concern after the game.

Moseley have vowed to look into the incident, a club spokesman saying: "We pride ourselves on the all-embracing nature of our club and welcome anybody - whatever background - as a supporter or player. We do not tolerate any deviation in this."

The spokesman confirmed Moseley would be holding an inquiry to determine the veracity of the claims.