Harborough Town manager Stuart Spencer insists a top-six finish ‘has to be the next step’ for his United Counties League Premier Division side.
The Bees get their campaign under way this weekend with a trip to Cogenhoe United.
And while pre-season has not been without its problems for the club, Spencer is confident he has a collection of players capable of taking the club forward from their run of three successive 11th-place finishes.
“Realistically we have to kick things on,” Spencer said.
“We were disappointed last season that, having been a top-eight side all year, we fell away to 11th.
“But we beat the top three teams last season and that shows the capability of the side.
“We need to find more consistency and working out how to get the better of the middle to lower-end teams will probably be the defining thing for us.
“If you look at the results in pre-season they have been a bit disappointing.
“We’ve been hit with the usual problems like holidays and unavailabilities – and a World Cup – and have struggled for numbers.
“But I’m happy to lose a few friendlies as long as we get a win at Cogenhoe on Saturday.
“We’ve been relatively stable in terms of personnel with only one or two leaving but a few coming in.
“We’ve brought in Perry Johnson, Finlay Gray, Pernell Taylor-Jacob and Jordon Lever and I think all four of those look like they could improve what is already a good group.
“A push for the top six has to be the next step if the team is to match the ambitions of the football club.
“We also need to make sure the players’ ambition matches otherwise they will not be coming along with us on this ride.
“There are some fantastic things happening at the club and we need to provide the quality of football to match.”
The off-field developments at the club have also hit a pre-season hitch.
It was announced earlier this week that the new 4G pitch would not be ready for the start of the new term due to the heatwave making it impossible for installation to take place on time.
It is a frustration they could all do without but, as Spencer explained, it is a small price to pay for what they will end up with.
“Yes, it’s disappointing,” he added. “It holds us up a bit as a first-team but, in the grand scheme of things, you just have to sit tight and then thoroughly enjoy the facility when it is ready.
“We’re away for our first three league games and go to Whitworth in the FA Cup so it won’t interrupt the first weeks.
“We’ve got a League Cup game against Rugby that will just be put back in the diary so that means the issue will come, without wanting to look too far ahead, if we go through in the FA Cup.
“We are due to play Cambridge City at home but the club are already looking for another venue for us to play at should we need to.
“That will mean the first game on the new surface will probably be against Desborough Town on September 1.
“That is just the way it has fallen but it would obviously be a great way for the new facility to be opened.”