FC CLACTON manager Tom Austin believes his on-song side are "dark horses" for a top-four finish this season.

The Seasiders are handily placed in the Thurlow Nunn League premier division and started the week sitting 11th, only seven points behind second-placed Wroxham.

Heading into last night's scheduled match at Long Melford, they also had the benefit of games in hand on all the sides above.

It promises to be an exciting campaign and Austin wants his players to show that last season's success - when they finished a best-ever sixth - was no "one-hit wonder".

"We're in a great position and only seven points behind second-place Wroxham," said Austin, speaking before the Melford game.

"We've got games in hand on all the sides above and now it's a question of being as strong and consistent as possible up to Christmas.

"If we do that, we'll be up there in the top three or four with a real chance to kick on in the new year.

"We all know what can happen when you put a winning run together.

"I'd say we're dark horses for the top three or four, if the players keep working hard and doing the right things.

"We've set ourselves up to have another very good season and now we want to push on.

"We can't afford to have any blips and I just want the boys to fulfil their potential."

Clacton were left without a game last weekend, following the postponement of their home match against Norwich United.

A waterlogged pitch meant the contest was called off on Saturday morning.

The Seasiders are on their travels again this weekend, when they visit Ely City, and their next scheduled home game is against Haverhill Rovers on November 26.

"The Vase run has been brilliant but the league is our bread and butter," added Austin.

"This is how we're judged and we want to show that what happened last season wasn't a fluke or flash in the pan.

"People will always have their opinions and be quick to write us off.

"The lads hear things, as I do, but that just makes us more determined to prove them wrong, to strive for success.

"We're not one-hit wonders and are serious contenders for another high finish, so when people say negative things we take it with a pinch of salt."

Meanwhile, Austin believes his current squad is the best the club have had for years.

Chris Ribchester, Adam Hampson and Karl Andrade recently returned after short spells away, with the only drawback being the fact Ollie Lamb has just departed to go travelling around Australia.

"The fact players have left and come back shows we must be doing something right," said Austin.

"It shows we're an attractive proposition and this is the best squad the club have had for a long while, certainly in my time as manager.

"We've got quality across the pitch but we've also got depth, too.

"That's something I haven't always had.

"Now there are options and while it's not nice leaving players out, it's a lovely dilemma to have."

In addition to their league fixtures, Clacton have another important date in the diary when Eynesbury Rovers visit the Austin Arena for an FA Vase third-round proper tie in November 30.

On the Tuesday before (November 26), they also have an attractive Tolleshunt D'Arcy Memorial Cup second-round tie at neighbours and rivals Stanway Rovers.