ASHINGTON have been challenged to target the Northern League top six next season, but Richie Bond admits even aiming for eighth place is a “tough ask”.
The Colliers finished sixth two years ago, their first campaign under manager Gary Middleton.
They ended last season in eighth spot, though enjoyed better runs in the FA Cup and Vase than the previous season.
First-team coach Bond – who has seen Liam Atkin and Phil Bell leave Woodhorn Lane for Blyth Spartans and Whitley Bay respectively – is keen on a repeat in the new term’s knockout competitions.
But he also wants to see Ashington aim higher in the league, and said: “Every season that goes by, you want to achieve a little bit more.
“In our eyes, we have moved the bar a little bit higher. The benchmark was set the season before last. We finished fifth, though we were a little bit disappointed with the draws we got in the FA Cup and Vase, going out at early stages.
“We finished a few places below that in the league last season, but on the positive side we had a bit of success in the FA Cup and Vase.
“The club made a couple of quid and it was nice for some of the younger players to get a taste of playing in a decent standard of competition.
“We played Droylsden in the FA Cup, who went on to get to the first round proper, and we got to the last 32 of the Vase, and were 20 minutes away from getting through. You don’t know what would have happened after that. It was a nice little taster for the young lads, hopefully they’ll want a taste of it again in the season coming up.
“The club would always like a run in the Vase or especially the FA Cup, because the finance is there.
“You’re talking thousands when you get into the third and fourth qualifying rounds, and clubs are trying to balance the books.”
Bond added: “The quality of players that we’re hoping to bring in, we would like to think, are a bit better than what we’ve had in the past, and that’s no disrespect to the them.
“But the competition’s that hard that the likes of the Whitley Bays, the Bedlingtons and the Spennymoors, Dunstons and Benfields are going to be top-five or top-six sides every year.
“So to get anywhere near the top seven or eight is achievable, but it’s always a tough ask.”