BOWERS & Pitsea manager Rob Small says he is hopeful of another season fighting at the top of the Isthmian North next term.

Bowers enjoyed a promising campaign that looked as though it could result in automatic promotion for much of the final three months.

But they were pipped to the post by Potters Bar Town, as Bowers were resigned to the end-of season play-offs.

Defeat against Canvey Island left Small contemplating his future but he is now hopeful of another strong season in 2018/19.

“I would definitely be enjoying the time off more had we achieved promotion but it feels a relief to have it finished and catch a breather,” he said.

“You have to try to make the most of the off-season but most managers will tell you football doesn’t afford you that time.

“People want to know what your plans are moving forward, while other managers have already been thinking about next season and they will make contact with your players or players you are interested in.

“I have had conversations with each member of the squad. Jamie Salmon is the only one to go for now but the other players want to regroup and go again and that gives me a bit of heart.

“A rebuild is difficult and I think you will see the continuity factor play a big part.

“AFC Hornchurch and Haringey Borough went up this year and both were losing semi-finalists last year. They didn’t change things and we can follow that template.”

Despite slipping out of the automatic promotion places late in the season, Small says he has been able to reflect with pride on the campaign.

And following a league reshuffle which will see Bowers play a whole host of Essex derbies next season, Small is confident Bowers can mix it with the best in the league.

Although no team from a higher tier has joined the division, the well resourced Coggeshall Town and Felixstowe & Walton join the ranks.

And Small accepts Bowers will have to start coping with expectation following fine campaigns in each of the last two seasons.

“This is a small club but we have proven ourselves at this level for two years now and that has its downsides as that comes with expectation,” he said.

“If Bowers finish where they should finish in terms of resources we would be mid-table or lower and that would diminish my reputation as we have proved we can mix it with the best.

“On the plus side, when it comes to recruitment players do look at successful teams and managers and you can build a team with the right people without having money.

“We want to challenge again and, while an automatic push may be difficult, a top five spot is attainable.

“I am going on a break this week and football might have to wait until I get back.”