You would have to travel some distance to catch a performance as bad as the one Edinburgh put in against Saracens last weekend – but the length of the M8 wasn't far enough.

Yet even if Glasgow's 19-8 loss to Ulster at Scotstoun on Friday evening was not on the same scale as the 45-0 hammering their mates from the capital had suffered at Murayfield, the initial feelings of despondency afterwards were not greatly different.

The scorelines could scarcely have sounded more depressing if Eeyore had been reading the results. In Heineken Cup terms, neither amounted to a death certificate, but the two patients were on the critical list at the finish. The consolation for Edinburgh is that it beggars belief that they could possibly play as badly again when they take on Munster in Limerick today; Glasgow's glimmer of hope came from the Stade Ernest Wallon in Castres, where the home team's 21-16 victory over Northampton blew Pool 4 wide open.

Loading article content

The odds are still stacked heavily against Glasgow making a first appearance in the quarter-finals. But it is wise to bear in mind that backdrop of under-achievement for those who have already written Gregor Townsend off as a coach seem to have forgotten that the club has not exactly set the European heather alight in years past. Four of their previous seven Heineken Cup tournaments also began with back-to-back defeats.

One of those was the 2009-10 campaign, which they started with a home loss to Biarritz, followed by an away defeat by the Dragons. And yet, the season is remembered fondly by Glasgow fans for the fact their side reached the play-offs of what was then still called the Magners League, finishing third in the table. Over the past seven days – and who came up with that idiotic piece of fixture scheduling? – they have lost to the leaders of both the Aviva Premiership and the RaboDirect PRO12, and it would take a twisted mind to view that as any sort of humiliation.

The record books show that 16 teams have reached the Heineken quarters with two pool losses to their names. Munster became champions in 2008 after losing two group games, a feat repeated by Leinster the following year. Ulster, beaten finalists last season, had also emerged from their pool despite being beaten by Leicester and Clermont Auvergne.

Given that, Townsend was perfectly correct to say that Glasgow can still reach the last eight if they win their four remaining pool games. But given where the club and the team stand in terms of development, having even a sniff of a chance could be the worst thing for them right now. Despite a crippling injury list, they hold third place in the PRO12 table, and it would do them no harm if that became the focus of their efforts, just as it did in 2009-10.

The fixture list is not exactly a cakewalk, but Glasgow's sequence of PRO12 games over the next few weeks could be a lot worse. Away to Treviso next weekend, they then have home matches against the Dragons and Leinster, the latter taking place on November 23, when both teams will be hit by international selections.

Traditionally, Glasgow have faltered badly when the Test season swung into view. However, as core players like Josh Strauss, Mike Cusack and Niko Matawalu will be unaffected by such things, they should be able to maintain the momentum they have lost in seasons past – and pick up more as individuals such as Duncan Weir, Chris Cusiter, DTH Van der Merwe and Sean Lamont start rising from their hospital beds.

The measure of Glasgow was not that they lost to Ulster. How they react to the setback will tell us more important things about the team.