YORK City boss Steve Watson is pleased that his team are facing a quartet of National League North promotion contenders in their final four fixtures.

Watson’s mid-table side will travel to tenth-placed Chester on Saturday before a bank-holiday double-header sees them play host to Spennymoor on Good Friday and visit Easter Monday opponents Bradford Park Avenue, who are currently positioned fourth and sixth respectively in the standings.

The end of the regular season will then witness a Bootham Crescent clash against seventh-placed Telford and Watson believes the competitive contests will provide confirmation of the standards his team need to meet next season to challenge in the higher reaches.

He also suggested that he could treat the games as scouting missions as he runs the rule over opposition players who could assist his 2019/20 plans.

The City boss declared: “We have got four very good tests now against teams above us who all have something to play for. They won’t be stale games, because they will all be desperate to win.

“They will all come at us and that will be a test for our defence and give us a chance to counter them. Short of a miracle, we will be in this league and facing most, if not all, of these teams again, so the games will also give me another good idea of what there is to beat and what might be out there to recruit because you never know who will be available.”

Watson went on to reason that the current standings illustrate the significance of gradual squad building with heavily-supported, former Championship outfit Stockport on course for promotion during their sixth season in the sixth tier.

Chorley, Brackley and Spennymoor, who sit second, third and fourth respectively, have also profited from carefully-managed improvement, as did last term’s play-off winners Harrogate, while bank-rolled, 2018 National League champions Salford City spent two seasons in the sixth tier following back-to-back promotions.

The patient model is one that Watson acknowledges reaps rewards in non-League football, having had first-hand experience of its success as assistant-manager with Macclesfield, but he will, nevertheless, be targeting a return to the National League next term.

He said: “If you look at the top-four teams, they haven’t just built their squads this season and John Askey and myself didn’t do that at Macclesfield either. It was all done over a three-season period, so you get to know exactly who can take you to the next step and, the ones who can’t, are moved on.

“You do the same the following summer and that saw Macclesfield win the National League title. You can’t replace 16 players every summer and click straight away.

“I want to get promoted next season and do it quicker than has to be the case for part-time teams in this league. If it takes two or three seasons and we’re getting better and better, so be it, but that’s not my plan.”

City face a Chester team who are four points adrift of the top seven following a 6-0 home thumping against Stockport on Tuesday night, but Watson is expecting a big reaction from that humiliation, adding: “I often use the words 'wounded animal' ever since I watched the ‘Living with Lions’ documentary and heard the phrase ‘there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded springbok’.

“They will still have aspirations for the play-offs and will be desperate for a response in a must-win game for them.”

Joe Tait and Adam Bartlett have both recovered from the bug that saw them miss last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Southport, although the only change to the team is expected to see Adriano Moke return after a one-match suspension in place of Jake Wright, with Watson venturing: “It might be a case of going back to three midfielders who we know will do their jobs without the ball and, then, we could look for Jake to make an impact.

“The other system, with four strikers on the pitch, was one more suited to playing at home, whereas we’ll be going there looking to be solid from the start of the game.”

Watson is also unlikely to hand out any more senior debuts this season after Ryan Whitley and Jasper Moon both enjoyed their first professional outings against Southport.

Fellow teenager Nathan Dyer, who played ten matches under Watson’s predecessor Sam Collins, is not expected to feature either in the remaining four games with the City manager explaining: “We have integrated all of the young players into training this week to have a bit of a look at them.

“I think putting on 10v10 games against the senior players gives you a better idea about them than watching them in their College League games. I will only use players who I’m sure are ready to go in and, whilst I know Nathan has been in the team before, I can only go on what I’ve seen.

“I’ve got to see enough on a daily basis against the senior players and I won’t risk anybody, because I don’t need to. Nathan has signed a contract and I think I will learn more about him over pre-season when we’ll integrate him into some of the games.

“It will be good to work with all of the players for six weeks over the summer to show them what I expect and what is needed physically. Young lads are generally very aware with the ball at their feet, but it’s the other side of the game that they need to learn and that comes down to coaching and takes time, which is difficult when you’re coming in midway through a season as manager.”