YORK City left-back Alex Whittle is still targeting a top-three finish in National League North this season.

The Minstermen currently lie nine points behind third-placed Brackley Town, while the gap to top-two Salford and Harrogate is 18 and 11 respectively.

This season’s switch to six-team play-offs in the highest echelons of non-League football means there is a big advantage to end the regular campaign as one of the division’s leading three clubs.

Those sides who finish second and third will host the winners of the quarter-finals featuring teams from fourth to seventh.

The final will then take place at the highest-placed club left and Whittle insisted now is the time for the Minstermen to make their move.

City travel to Boston today unbeaten in four matches, but have not enjoyed a six-game sequence without defeat since Russ Wilcox secured Football League survival in April 2015, suffering back-to-back relegations in the meantime.

Whittle is determined to address that sorry statistic, saying: “Salford and Harrogate are doing really well, but we’ve definitely got to be in that top three.

“Against Kidderminster, we didn’t play particularly well and they passed the ball better than us, but we got the draw and we’re unbeaten in four now, so we’ve got to keep that run going. We definitely want to get to double figures by racking up as many wins as we can.”

Whittle, along with Aidan Connolly, dropped to the bench for last weekend’s 3-1 FA Trophy victory over Coalville Town and is now waiting to see whether the changes represented a spot of squad rotation or manager Martin Gray decides to stick with a winning team this afternoon, aside from a full debut for loan signing Jonny Burn.

“I think, with no disrespect to Coalville, we should be beating them comfortably,” Whittle reasoned. “You’d expect us to put in a decent performance and be a bit disappointed if we didn’t play well.

“Before the game, the manager just told me and Aidy that he wanted to make a couple of changes for the cup game, so we’ll have to see what happens at Boston now. You never want it easy at any club and we’ve got quite a bit of competition.”

With David Ferguson employed in his normal position against Coalville, one route back into the team for Whittle might be in the central-midfield role he filled during the 3-1 reserve defeat at Rotherham in midweek.

But, despite being a playmaking attacker during his school days, Whittle reckons his employment further forward might have just been to accommodate him, as a more versatile player, in a team that already had Sam Muggleton pencilled in for left-back duty.

“I found it alright,” he added of his midfield appearance. “I like getting on the ball and am good technically.

“I also had Aidy, Daws (trialist Adam Dawson) and Tyler (Walton) around me, who all like to pass the ball, but I’m not sure if it’s my new position. I’ve not really played there before – only a bit in training, but never in a competitive game.

“As a kid, I was a number 10 and then went back and back and I think it was just to fit me in for a game. I’ve played nearly every game this season and last season, so I’m fit, but it was good to get a run-out I guess.”

There have been 19 goals, meanwhile, in City’s last four away fixtures and Whittle is expecting another entertaining encounter in Lincolnshire, with the key to victory potentially lying in keeping the team’s first clean sheet in ten road trips, stretching back to the 5-0 mid-August mauling of Bradford Park Avenue.

“Boston have been struggling, but every away game is tough,” the ex-Southport defender pointed out. “Personally, I think we’ve been playing better away from home, because there’s a bit more space when the games are a little more open, which suits people like Aidy and Parky (Jon Parkin) in the form he’s in.

“We always look like we will score goals, but we’ve just got to stop conceding as many. I don’t think that’s just down to the back four - although don’t get me wrong I know we need to do better collectively as a defence - but around three-quarters of our goals have also come from set-plays.”

Whittle went on to admit that he had sounded out team-mate Muggleton about the opposition following the latter’s recent loan spell at York Street and the feedback was that the former could be in for a testing afternoon, if selected, while 16-goal leading marksman Parkin might enjoy another field day.

“He said the wingers are alright, while the centre half is a bit young which, with Parky being on fire, means there could be more goals for him,” Whittle revealed of his chat with Muggleton.