Billy Paynter says Runcorn Linnets are aware they have to raise their game following the success of their previous seasons.
Linnets can move second with a win over Northern Premier League West strugglers Newcastle Town on Saturday, after Prescot Cables were held at home by Vauxhall Motors.
Paynter’s side had a strong festive period, bouncing back from their defeat at home to City of Liverpool, picking up nine points from 12 after wins over Chasetown, Cables and Kidsgrove Athletic.
“I’m happy with the points that we’ve gained, it would’ve been nice to get a maximum but it was disappointing to lose against Witton,” he told Off The Park.
“The points tally, you can’t really argue with it (the return), the main aim is to be in and around the playoffs, maybe even challenge for spot spot.
“With how the league is going, anyone can beat anyone on their day, there will be shock results but like I said, there’s teams in the bottom half that I feel shouldn’t be. We’ve got to concentrate on ourselves but we still need to improve and look to strengthen in areas as well.”
In the last two seasons, Linnets have been beaten finalists twice in the playoff finals and have aspirations of going one better this year – or bypassing it completely by topping the league.
Paynter admitted there is a pressure and expectation on his side but a “good pressure. He added: “Because we have been in the playoffs for the last two years, I think the players have got that added pressure.
“It’s a good pressure and challenge to have, those in the top part of the table around us know that we’re a difficult side and that’s why I think they raise their games.
“It’s always a challenge because we come up against quality teams and scrape victories against them, it’s down the bottom half where we’ve come undone, that’s where there’s an inconsistency because those are the points that can help you at the end of the season.
“We’re going away, there is some caution, they had a good result against Mossley but it was important that we got the points against Kidsgrove, Chasetown and Prescot because if we didn’t, we’d find ourselves outside the playoffs. It’s important that we are taking points off the teams around us.
“They’ve got a new manager, an experienced one, who knows the league. I’ve come across him a few times, he’s a good manager and he’ll be applying his style of football.”