Marine manager Neil Young has outlined the ambitions for next season and insists the hard work is only just starting.
Warrington Town left the Marine Travel Arena with all three points after a stoppage-time winner. Substitute Isaac Buckley-Ricketts tipped the encounter in their favour after Joe Hardy cancelled out Jordan Buckley’s opener.
The defeat leaves the Mariners’ playoff hopes out of their hands as Radcliffe Borough need just one win from their last three to secure the final place in the top five.
“We would’ve taken a point from a confidence perspective, it probably would’ve give us an outside, outside, outside chance but you’ve also got to be realistic,” said Young speaking to Off The Park on the manner of their late defeat.
The Yellows’ playoff spot was all but secured by the time they kicked off on Easter Monday after Stalybridge Celtic claimed a late point against playoff-chasing Hyde United.
Marine have been in and around the top five for the majority of the season – their first back in Step 3 after winning promotion via the playoffs last year.
But the Mariners boss had an honest assessment of where his side are at this moment in time.
He added: “I’m not daft, I’ve been in this league before, I’ve won this league and I know what it takes but we’re not there yet, as a team, as a football club.
“We’ve had unbelievable days, unbelievable nights here beating teams, higher opposition but there’s got to be a sense of realism and that is that we’re not good enough, it’s as simple as that.
“But we’ve had a remarkable season, we’re going to potentially be one of the highest finishers out of the promoted clubs, we finished fifth last year, had a lot of injuries, ins and outs.
“I give every credit to the players, they’ve kept going and kept going but we just haven’t reached that level of consistency.
“We seen that today, we went to Marske on Saturday and were brilliant, we went to Whitby and were excellent, we beat Southport, Everton here but then you throw in Nantwich Town, Bamber Bridge second-half, Guiseley last 25 minutes and that’s ultimately why you don’t make the playoffs.”
Their attention now turns to ending the campaign on a high.
Three games, two in the league, remain for Young’s side as they look to finish the season strong with a final against Runcorn Linnets in the Liverpool Senior Cup looming.
“We can use excuses and there are some valid ones but we’re not quite ready yet, we will be, we will improve, we’ve got three games to go – a cup final to look forward to,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of, we’ve got a Liverpool Senior Cup final to look forward to and I hope for the club, the fans, the players that we can get it over the line but Runcorn Linnets aren’t not going to turn up.
Despite the curtain yet to close on the current campaign, there is already an eye on next season.
And Young, who won multiple league titles with Chester plus promotions with Colwyn Bay and Cammell Laird, believes he knows what the next step is for his team and what is needed during the off-season to make that next step.
Explaining why his current side aren’t quite ready, he continued: “South Shields are an anomaly because they’re full-time but if you look at Warrington today, they’ve been in the playoffs for four or five seasons.
“They’ve been in and around that each time and they’ve built a squad with experience, if you look at the level of experience between their squad and ours, they’ve been able to do that and grow over a period of time, we’ve got to get to that where we’re bringing in more experienced players.
“Our experienced players are unfortunately the ones who got injured in the main but if you look they brought in players from the Conference North, then you put it on the Bohan’s [Dixon], Jay Harris’, Sean Williams’ all lads who have played higher.
“You’ve got to bring that experience into the group, we’ve got to try get those three or four players who have played at higher level, just when the chips are down, struggling, rally the boys.
“We’re just inexperienced in there, when the chips are down and you see it today, against Guiseley, Bamber, once we concede we go to pieces a little bit.”
Over the next 10 days, Young will begin discussions ahead of what promises to be a busy summer of preparations for the 2023/24 season.
Despite a positive first season back in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, there is no inkling over settling for outside the playoffs to midtable as the Mariners boss chases another winners medal in the division.
He said: “I’m a winner and I have been for a long time, there’s a lot of success behind myself and the staff so you’re always wanting to compete for the prizes, we’ve come up short on this occasion and I don’t think we should’ve.
“I’ve got to look at that, myself, the staff and what we’re doing. If someone would’ve said to us when we arrived four years ago in that season where the club hardly had any players, that we would have a FA Cup Third Round tie against Tottenham and the cup run we had then get promoted, then be challenging for the playoffs next season and be in a Liverpool Senior Cup final, I would’ve said ‘are you serious?’
“We’ve come a very long way in a short amount but this is where the hard work starts now, it’s not a time to rest on our laurels it’s about improvement on and off the pitch. In the next week to 10 days, I’ll be sitting with the club and discussing what we need to do to move forward.”