HEAD coach Mike Ford insist failure to qualify for the Aviva Premiership play-offs would represent a failure for his squad, despite the huge strides forward made this season.

Bath will wrap up a top-four finish and play-off semi-final place with victory over Harlequins at the Stoop tomorrow (3.15pm) – but victory for the Londoners will see them leapfrog the Rec men even if Bath earn a bonus point, because Quins will have had a greater number of wins.

From finishing outside the Heineken Cup places last term, Bath have improved dramatically this season, having held a top four slot for the majority of the campaign, but Ford says the squad are determined to turn a season of progress into something more tangible.

“Sitting three points above them (Quins) with one game to go, we’d have taken that at the beginning of the season,’’ he said.

“But it’s not good enough for us not to qualify. We’ll feel it’s a failure after what’s gone on so far.

“If we want to be a top four side, we’ve got to go away from home and win to prove it to everyone. There is no better way than doing it against a team who are in that top four bracket.’’

Ford cited the example of Liverpool in the Premier League as another side to defy expectations this season, but while the Merseysiders look like falling short of league glory, he insists Bath can deliver on their promise.

“We were talking about Liverpool and how they’ve potentially lost the title, while England lost three Grand Slams on the run (at the turn of the century) and how you have to go through these learning experiences,’’ added Ford.

“We don’t. We don’t want to lose at Quins and go through that experience to do it next year. We want to do it this year and we feel we can.

“We readjusted our goals around Christmas-time. We wanted top six because privately, we thought that top four would be difficult to break into. We’ve been in the top four all year and third for 75 per cent of that.

“Now we feel we’re a top four side and the proof will be in the pudding on Saturday.

“Maybe in years gone past, finishing fifth and sixth was acceptable. We want to challenge that and win medals. We’re pretty excited where this team can go – this year.’’

Bath have a conundrum at hooker, with England’s Rob Webber’s season almost certainly over due to the knee injury sustained against Northampton last week and Ross Batty (shoulder) struggling.

Argentinian international Eusebio Guinazu or England U20 hooker Tom Woolstencroft could be options with Academy youngster Tom Dunn also facing a citing procedure from his time while playing in the Championship for London Scottish.