GUY Heffernan has his sights set on a play-off place for Holker Old Boys – providing they can make the most of a favourable start to the season in the North West Counties League First Division North.

The Rakesmoor Lane outfit finished ninth, seven points outside the play-offs, in the First Division last season and manager Heffernan believes securing a place in the post-season promotion shake-up in the newly-regionalised North division is a realistic proposition.

The fixture list has handed Old Boys four home fixtures in the opening three weeks of the 2018-19 season too and the boss is keen to take advantage of that after feeling a difficult start to the previous campaign proved costly.

“That's the aim,” said Heffernan. “I think it's (2017-18) the second-best season since I've been up there and it's the second-highest points tally over the past five or six years, so hopefully we can go one better.

“It's going to be the start for us this year; last season, losing seven on the bounce and coming to back to where we finished, hopefully we can get a good set of results.

“Playing four of our first five games at home is a massive bonus, so hopefully we can get 12 to 15 points out of them.”

Three of those opening five fixtures are against First Division North newcomers in Steeton, Ashton Town and Cleator Moor Celtic, with the North West Counties League below the Premier Division having been expanded and split into North and South competitions.

This has come about due to the restructure taking place further up the non-League pyramid and while some are expecting the competition to be not as strong this year, Heffernan insisted that is not the case.

“It is going to be a challenge,” said Heffernan. “People have been saying to me it's going to be an easier league for us this year, but it's not.

“It's going to be harder; there are a lot more Manchester teams in and more Liverpool teams in there, which even on paper and from previous experiences, you know they're going to be tough games at home to them.”

Heffernan is going with much the same squad as the 2017-18 season, although he has brought in two teenage prospects in the form of 16-year-olds Jay Barker and Tyler Woods, who have stepped up from West Lancashire League sides Vickerstown and Furness Rovers respectively.

Holker will be competing for national honours as well in the 2018-19 campaign, having entered the FA Vase again and been handed a home draw against fellow First Division North side Prestwich Heys, who finished third last season.

Despite a strong finish to the season, Holker narrowly missed out on earning a place in this season’s FA Cup, so the Vase offers a great opportunity to bring in some extra income – starting with the first qualifying round tie against Prestwich on September 1.

“We were very disappointed and a bit miffed regarding not being in the FA Cup,” said Heffernan. “I think we missed out by two points in the overall standings, so the Vase is the next one.

“Playing Prestwich at home, where we beat them last year – and they are a good team, they got beaten in the play-offs and I think they will be one of the favourites for the league – will be a good test for us.

“But it's in September and hopefully we'll have a good build-up in August for then.”