YORK City manager Martin Gray has insisted his players must win more games in the last 20 minutes next season as he aims to field the fittest team in National League North.

During 2017/18, the Minstermen dropped 12 points from the 71st-minute onwards in games – surrendering four winning positions for draws and tossing away a share of the spoils on as many occasions going into those final throes.

Had City managed to hold on to what they had in all eight of those games, the Bootham Crescent outfit would have finished firmly in the play-offs in fifth place instead of their final standing of 11th.

In fact, only protecting half of those points would have secured a top-seven berth.

Throughout the season, the Minstermen only managed to convert two matches that were level at the 71st-minute point into victories - against Brackley and Boston, with the latter game finishing 10 v 9 in favour of Gray’s team.

The City boss’ semi-professional Darlington side flew out of the traps last term with three consecutive victories - a 2-0 opening day triumph at eventual champions Salford being followed by successes against Gainsborough (4-3) and Alfreton (4-1).

Gray now insisted that City must make their full-time status count in 2018/19 by getting off to a similar start.

He said: “On that opening day with Darlington, we were fitter than Salford and I want to be winning games in the last 15 or 20 minutes next season because of our fitness levels. I pride myself on having the fittest team in the league and being the most energetic over 90 minutes.

“I’ve always got off to a good start as a manager and that’s down to the work you put in during pre-season. You’re only as good as what you do with them, whether that be ball work, fitness circuits or team-building exercises.

“We’ll be at the training ground morning and afternoon and we’ll also have a day at the beach working on the sand dunes, which will be tough. I feel really privileged to be working with the players full-time and that makes a hell of a difference, so we’ve got to maximize it.

“We’ve had a smashing start to pre-season and I’ve told the players it will be the hardest they’ve ever experienced.”

Gray added that he is “delighted” with the physical condition in which all of his squad reported back for pre-season training this week – none more so than with heavyweight veteran Jon Parkin.

“Big Jon has come back in great shape, which is a credit to him at 36 in probably his 20th pre-season,” the City chief enthused. “He’s not sitting out anything and is a great example to the young lads.

“Everybody has come back in great condition and I’m delighted with all of them. The players from last season are recharged and refreshed and I can see a different mentality straight away.

“The new players that we’ve brought in have a real hunger, desire and appetite and that was needed.”

Soaring temperatures during the current heatwave, meanwhile, have seen Gray keep a watchful eye on refuelling, whilst he also praised the quality of the training ground pitch.

“We’re lucky to have such fantastic ground-staff, because our training pitch is green and lush,” he pointed out. “It’s not like running on concrete, which could be the case in this weather.

“We’ve just got to make sure we take lots of water breaks. I don’t want to get caught out by cramp, fatigue injuries or muscle strains because people have not got enough fluid and nutrition in their bodies.”

Gray went on to reveal he had a small amount of his 2018/19 wage budget left although, other than the possibility of offering the out-of-contract Clovis Kamdjo a deal following his comeback from knee ligament damage, he does not currently envisage adding to his roster before the first game of the season on August 4.

“There’s a little bit of wiggle room, but I think we have signed wisely and we’re not planning to do anything at this moment in time, unless something different comes out of the bag,” the ex-Sunderland midfielder reasoned. “There’s a chance for Clovis.

“He’s worked so hard to get where he needs to be, so he’ll be with us for the first few weeks of pre-season, then we’ll sit down and discuss where we’re going after that. We’ve also got one or two trialists in and we’ll assess them after next Saturday’s game but, if the season started tomorrow, we would be ready to go with what we have brought in and retained.”