Lancaster City boss Phil Brown has challenged his men to be the ‘best of the rest’ in the NPL First Division North this season.
The Dolly Blues’ faint play-off dreams were all but ended on Saturday as they suffered their first league defeat in eight games away at Mossley.
The 2-0 defeat, which followed a frustrating 2-2 draw against Kendal Town on Easter Monday, now means they trail fifth-placed Burscough by eight points having played a game more.
With four games left to play of City’s season, Brown conceded that a promotion tilt now looks out of the question – but finishing as high as seventh is well within his team’s grasp.
And Brown believes that will represent success after taking over the reins at Giant Axe in early October with the club in the lower reaches of the division.
“I would say we are out of it now,” said Brown. “I think the last two results have given us too much to do.
“The play-offs were realistically within our grasp.
“If we could have gone on a bit of run of win, we might have been able to put a bit more pressure on the teams above us
“But we have just fallen away a little bit.
“Maybe the pressure of having to win every game and pick up a lot of points has taken its toll.
“The target now is to be the best of the rest in the division.
“We can’t finish in the play-offs but finishing seventh – or possibly sixth – will be for me a good achievement.”
Brown felt his men paid the price for not capitalising on a fine start against Mossley.
“I thought we opened quite well,” he said. “We got on the front foot and had a couple of opportunities
“Zach Clark had the ball in the back of the net after 30 seconds but it was ruled out for offside. We then conceded two goals just before half-time – we tried to get back in the game but we just lacked that little bit of a spark.”
On Saturday, City host Scarborough Athletic at Giant Axe and then face them away the following weekend.
Their other two games are against bottom side New Mills, with the first of those games taking place away on Tuesday.
“Scarborough have not had the best of seasons,”said Brown.
“But they have had a new manager Steve Kittrick come in. He’s a very experienced manager and has turned it around a little. Their results have improved.
“They had a decent win away at Northwich and there’s no gimmesin this league.
Brown has fitness worries over Clarke (ankle), Rob Henry (knee), Ryan Winder (back) and Mike Hale (knee). All four face fitness tests.