Formartine United boss Paul Lawson believes his side will be among multiple challengers for the Highland League title next season.
They still have second spot to aim for in the final two games of this season but may well strengthen for a push at top spot in 2018-19.
This season’s champions Cove Rangers could be back in the league next year should they miss out on promotion via the pyra- mid play-off, although they have made no secret of their desire to go into the SPFL.
While Lawson would like to target bringing the title to North Lodge Park for the first time, he accepts they will not be the only team with that goal.
Lawson said: “Ourselves, along with a few others, will be pushing for it.
“Cove have been outstanding this season and fully deserve it.
“They’ve set the bar and it’s up to us and others to try to get close to them. We’ll see what happens in the play-offs but there’ll be four or five teams up there challenging next year.
“It makes no difference to us if they (Cove) go up. They’ve got the side to do it – they’ve blown everyone away in our league this season.
“It will be good for the Highland League in a sense to push a team up into the leagues.”
In his first season in management, former Ross County and Mother- well midfielder Lawson has delivered the Highland League Cup and Aberdeenshire Cup. They can still beat Inverurie Locos to second, if they win their two home games against Fort William on Saturday and Wick Aca-demy next week.
United thumped Keith 5-1 on Wednesday, with a Conor Gethins hat-trick, followed by strikes from Jamie Michie and Liam Burnett, seeing them home after Michael Selfridge’s opener.
Lawson added: “We’ve got Fort William first and we’ll need to do a professional job, then Wick the following week which will be tough. It’s about keeping the guys going. Some can be in wind-down mode towards the end of the season but it’s good we’ve got something to play for.
“It’s 13 wins on the bounce now, so we’re on a good run. Second is still the target – there’s two games to go now and we said before the Keith game, it’s nice to still be playing for something at this stage of the season. It keeps the interest going.”