Dave Hockaday is already planning for next season in the Blue Square Bet Premier, when he admits it will be a….
….case of “play-offs or bust” for his Forest Green Rovers side.
Rovers host struggling Southport today, knowing they can no longer gate crash the top five after a sorry run of three wins from their past eleven matches.
The only remaining targets are surpassing last term’s points tally of seventy and bettering the club’s all-time highest Conference finish of eighth – although Hockaday concedes it will be tough to rouse his dejected troops for the remaining three fixtures.
He said: “In the last quarter of the season we’ve come up against a brick wall and we haven’t found a way round it, over it or through it.
“The fans are nowhere near as frustrated as myself or my team – the lads are hurting.
“I’ll bounce back because I’m a winner and I want to win every game, and it shouldn’t matter what position in the league you’re in.
“I will pick a team that look as if they’re up for a challenge because I want to finish with nine points to get into the seventies and be an improvement on last season.
“I’m absolutely devastated that my bunch of players haven’t made the play-offs, but we’ll learn from it and we’re not looking for excuses.
“We’ll bounce back even stronger and next season it’s play-offs or bust – that’s what we’re here for.”
Top of the table in late September, Rovers’ cause has not been helped by long-term injuries to two proven Conference goal scorers in Reece Styche and Ben Wright.
But Hockaday recruited three other forwards last summer, as well as adding attacking loan signings Nathaniel Jarvis, Yemi Odubade, Wes Burns and Reece Connolly during the course of a campaign that would surely have tested the patience of more volatile chairman than Dale Vince.
Backing himself to find the right formula for 2013/14, Hockaday said: “We defend pretty well as a team and we attack pretty well as a team, but we have to score goals.
“This season was about improving, and we have improved in so far as we’ve been in contention for the play-off places.
“But we’ve thrown it away, and that’s where the frustration from everybody comes in because they’re thinking we’re good enough.
“We have to take measures to put the ball in the back of the net, and if as a team we aren’t good enough then we’ll have to bring people in who are.”