By Tim Clarke 27/04 Updated: 03/05 14:43
WORCESTER CITY manager Carl Heeley believes his side will face an even sterner challenge to remain play-off contenders next season.
City will look to end what has been a thrilling season on a high note when they entertain relegation threatened Workington tomorrow (Saturday).
Heeley's men are guaranteed to finish seventh but saw their play-off hopes ended last weekend when they drew 2-2 with Gainsborough Trinity.
Having exceeded expectations with their challenge for a top five finish, Heeley says City will have to strengthen even further to remain in the frame next season.
"The reality of it is we have got to improve our squad on the same resources at best and to add into the mix you are going to have teams like Kettering coming down and they have indicated they are going to stay full time," he said.
"Then you get big spenders coming into the division like Chester and Brackley and I'm sure there will be others. If Darlington come down into the north they are another big club. It's going to be a lot tougher next season and you only have to look at the play off picture this season to see it's anybody's guess who is going to go up through the play offs.
"The hardest thing to do is to bridge that last bit of a gap before you achieve honours but we believe we have got the nucleus of players who have proved they can do it. We have probably progressed quicker this year than what was expected but nevertheless we will try and do the same next season."
Heeley has already opened contract negotiations with a number of key players in his squad and remains confident he can hang onto star performers like top scorer Mike Symons and midfield duo Tom Thorley and Kevin O'Connor.
"We have been negotiating for a few weeks now and I'm quite pleased with how that has been going," he said.
"We hope to keep all the players we want to but if that's not the case and players decide to move on we are confident we can get good players in. There are lots of players who want to come and play for Worcester City now because we are seen as a side that can challenge."
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