MANAGER Ian Evatt has already begun working on keeping his key players at Barrow AFC, as he looks to engineer a strong end to his first season in charge.

The Bluebirds have eight games remaining in their National League campaign, starting with today’s game at Eastleigh, and Evatt has set a minimum target of a top-10 finish.

However, he wants to avoid the sort of turnover that occurred last summer, when he near enough had to create a squad from scratch, with little time to work in, after he was appointed in June.

He joked after Tuesday night’s 3-1 win at Wrexham that he did not want to talk about the performances of defender Dan Jones because he was one of the players he wanted to sign a new contract and he preferred him to fly under the radar.

It would not be surprising if AFC faced competition to keep hold of their players, but Evatt is keen on retaining the spine of his squad for next season.

Evatt said: “We’re trying to nail some of the players down, I’ve had a meeting with the board and they know where I stand on it and I think we’re on with it.

“I know it’s important that we don’t have a wholesale transition in the summer, we need to keep the better ones and add around it.

“If we do that and keep those players and add one or two around what we’ve got, we’re in a good place and we can move into next season really looking forward to it.

“But first and foremost, let’s see how we can go this season, see how many points we can rack up and go from there.”

Barrow will be looking to bring down another team riding high in the National League when they take to the field against Eastleigh at the Silverlake Stadium, having won impressively at Wrexham in midweek.

That followed victories against the Dragons’ fellow promotion-chasers Solihull Moors and Salford City earlier in the season, but they have at times struggled to reproduce those types of performances against teams lower down in the table.

The Bluebirds welcome another of the high-flyers, Harrogate Town, to Holker Street following today's game at Eastleigh.

That is then followed by a run of matches against teams below them ahead of the trip to play-off chasing Gateshead on the final day of the season.

Evatt is well-aware of the different challenges posed by those opponents, both in terms of the tactics they deploy and the mentality his squad need to adopt for said matches.

Evatt said: “They’re a different type of games. Mentality-wise, it’s easier to go to a place like Wrexham and get yourself going than say a Braintree away.

“Also, these teams are trying to beat us, which gives my lads space to play, space to attack and space to run into.

“When teams come in and bank up, it’s difficult for us sometimes, but we were great at Wrexham and I was really pleased with them.”