Lancaster City boss Darren Peacock believes a top-eight finish is well within his side’s grasp this year and hopes they can make a run at the play-offs.
The Dolly Blues kick-off the new Evo-Stik First Division North campaign at Burscough on Saturday having finished 11th last time around.
It has been an eventful summer with plenty of comings and goings at Giant Axe, Tom Kilifin leaving the club for Kendal Town this week while Morecambe legend Danny Carlton has come out of retirement to join the club.
Peacock is upbeat and relishing the challenge posed by a league that looks as open as it has in years.
The former Newcastle and Blackburn defender said: “We’ve got to look to finish higher than last season.
“We were only five wins short of the play-offs which isn’t a lot over the course of the season.
“We should certainly be looking at the top eight and maybe even higher.
“I think that’s realistic with the budget we have.
“Two of the big boys have gone in Salford City and Darlington so a lot of teams will think they’ve got a chance this year.
“We need to start well.”
It isn’t an easy opening for Peacock’s side as they host local rivals Bamber Bridge on Tuesday night after the season opener at Burscough.
The City boss said: “It’s a tough start.
“We’re ready physically, I think it’s more a mental thing.
“We did well against the top five or six last year so know what we can do, it’s about carrying that out every week.”
Peacock has injury concerns ahead of the game at Burscough with Danny Carlton set to miss out with a hamstring problem after pulling up in the final friendly against Workington.
Mike Hale is also a doubt after picking up a shoulder problem producing a sharp save late on.
Number two Mike Donlon, who has been getting game time with Garstang in the West Lancashire Premier Division, is ready to deputise.
Peacock said: “We don’t know if Mike is going to be fit for Saturday.
“He saved one-on-one but fell awkwardly on his shoulder and will have a scan on Saturday morning.
“Either way Mike has done well when he’s come in before and works really hard in training.
“With Danny missing on Saturday and probably Tuesday we’ve had a bit of bad luck with injuries.
“But people like Hannu (Tam, who scored the winner against Workington) have come in and done really well and it’s a chance for the young lads to shine.”
The Dolly Blues are running a supporters’ coach to Burscough.
Call 01524 382238 or 07943 874541 to reserve a seat costing £12.