Bury St Edmunds head coach Ollie Smith has admitted his side are now too far off the pace to fight for promotion after Christmas.
His comments follow the National League Two South team’s narrow 37-34 home defeat to league leaders Chinnor on Saturday — with the side recording only one win from their last four fixtures.
“We’re going to struggle to go up now,” Smith said.
“We’re exactly where I didn’t want to be at this stage of the season— in that mid-table limbo.
“Too far from the top to be promoted but safe from relegation, there’s nothing left to play for in the league.”
He had warned of this possibility ahead of December’s tough run of fixtures against the teams in first, second and fourth in the league.
But his side have been unable to prevent the scenario becoming reality, with back-to-back defeats sealing their fate.
“I think it just shows that we are 100 per cent in the right league for now,” Smith said.
“If we were a team that was good enough to go up, we wouldn’t have lost to Henley (November 11) and we probably wouldn’t have lost to Redingensians (December 2) either.
“We are where we are really — we are a solid National Two club at the moment that, on its day, can compete with the top.
“But you have to compete for the full 30 games across a whole season and those are the teams that get promoted at the end of it.
“And that will come in time for us. If you look at Chinnor, they have been there-or-there-abouts for several seasons —and it looks like this will be the one they do it in, but it took a while.
“For the past three or four seasons they have put in a lot of effort and are being rewarded — but we’re only at the start of our effort. We’re safe,” Smith said. “I think we would have to work hard to put ourselves in a dangerous position from here.
“So you could say next season starts at Christmas for us now as we start looking at how to build and regroup.
“The reality of it is that we can do a lot of damage to how next season pans out by not having our minds on the rest of this season.”
He said one of the major considerations will be deciding which players to retain and which to move on in the summer. For the players, therefore, there is still plenty to play for, including a spot in next year’s team up for grabs.
“We still want to win games,” Smith explained. “Winning is a habit and it’s a good mentality for the team to get used to.
“And it will help us to hit the ground running come September, of course. Plus, the players need to be proving to me and themselves that they are worthy of a place in my side — so there’s plenty still to do in the new year.”