SCOTT RHODES is not focusing on catching the top two in National Conference League division one but only on improving the young guns currently catching the eye at York Acorn.
Only two go up to amateur rugby league's top tier this year and currently Rochdale Mayfield and Oulton Raiders are way ahead in the race, with only one defeat apiece so far this term.
Rhodes' Acorn outfit - missing a host of players - entertain third-placed Myton Warriors this Saturday (2.30pm) with both sides knowing defeat will pretty much end all hope of making up sufficient ground. But the head coach says that is not even in his thoughts.
"Realistically, Mayfield and Oulton will go up," said Rhodes. "They've been the form teams, the best teams in the competition. We're just taking each game as it comes and trying to win each one, like we will this weekend.
"We've got a lot of young players and we're trying to bring them through and establish them as first-team players."
Asked if even third place was an aim, or if they were planning a promotion push next year, he said: "I'm setting no targets at the minute. This division might be even tougher next season the way things are looking.
"We just want to finish as high as we can. You can talk about targets but I'm looking at the bigger picture. I've watched these lads from under-18s level and I'm just enjoying watching them growing into first-team players and making them better players.
"If they keep developing and improving, then we'll be up there come the end of the season."
Rhodes will be without leading goalscorer Antony Chilton, Harry Bromwich, Josh Thompson, Jordan Hyde, Davey Burns, Andy Gargan and the suspended Daryl North, while Gareth Singleton faces a late test - absences that have led the club to postpone their 'A' team's Yorkshire Men's League premier division at Skirlaugh 'A'.
But Mike Embleton is back available after a month out, Timmy Elliott has returned after a spell away with work commitments, Callum Hannigan is back in the fold after a lengthy shoulder injury, and Jamie Stewart and Tony Shepherd could come in after impressing with the second team.
And Rhodes reckons they should still turn over their visitors. "I'm not going to make any excuses for this week," he said.
"I still think we've got a good enough team to win it.
"It's a good opportunity to have a look at some players, too."
Heworth like Acorn did not have a first-team game last weekend in division three.
This Saturday, they go to Woolston Rovers and, while the Villagers remain second bottom with only two wins this term, improvements have been coming and they ran promotion hopefuls Underbank Rangers close last time out.