CENTRE-BACK Hamza Bencherif insists York City must still target a high finish in the National League North table, arguing home advantage could be “massive” for potential play-off opponents.

The Minstermen currently lie fifth in the table which, under the new system, would hand them a home tie in the first round of the play-offs, but then see them travel to the third-placed team in the semi-finals.

Unless the side finishing seventh then reached the final, City would also travel to their opponents to decide who is promoted to the National League.

The Minstermen have never been higher than fourth this term – a spot they occupied following the run of five straight victories after Christmas.

But City’s current position is a little false with sixth-placed Kidderminster just one point behind having played two games fewer and Spennymoor, in seventh, trailing the North Yorkshire outfit by two points with five games in hand.

And, should Martin Gray’s men end the campaign seventh, they would need to negotiate three away ties to secure promotion.

Already this term, the Minstermen have lost league games at top-ten teams Harrogate, Salford, Chorley and Stockport.

Salford have been beaten on their own soil in the Trophy, meanwhile, but City’s interest in that competition also ended at Kidderminster.

Having tasted defeat at five of their play-off rivals, but only lost to one side – Blyth - outside of the bottom five at Bootham Crescent, Bencherif reasoned: “I know some people will just say if you get into the play-offs, then that’s enough, but the way they have been changed this season makes a massive difference.

“There is a big difference between clubs and stadiums in this division with some, like Harrogate, playing on a different surface. For some of those clubs, it will be a massive advantage playing us at their home ground and we have to try and finish as high as possible, so we don’t get surprised by anything we face away from home.”

City’s longest run of consecutive wins since qualifying for the League Two play-offs in 2014 has been followed by a sequence of just one triumph – against title hopefuls Salford - in their last six contests.

Former Wrexham and Macclesfield defender Bencherif admits he is a little puzzled by that change in fortunes, but can only cite the team’s “mental discipline” as an explanation.

“At this stage of the season, we’ve really got to put on performances to show where we are at, because we can’t have any more really bad games,” Bencherif confessed. “We’ve gone through a mixed run of results and it’s hard to put a finger on why that’s been.

“All I’d say is we have to be more consistent and that comes with mental discipline. I definitely think we are capable of beating the best teams, because we’ve done that, but you have to be ready for every game.

“That means enforcing our tempo on teams from the start, rather than waiting to see how a game develops and adjusting accordingly, which doesn’t work.”

Bencherif, himself, was at fault for last weekend’s equaliser that saw City community coach Tom Allan earn Alfreton a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent.

He is still smarting from that result and, even though there were extenuating circumstances for Allan getting a free header in the box, knows there can be no excuses, adding: “I thought we were in control of the game and that’s what was especially disappointing about the goal.

“We dropped two points and it was down to mis-communication really. When the sun is out in the afternoon, it also gets in your eyes at a certain height at that end of the pitch and it’s a bit of a problem because we’ve conceded a couple of goals like that, but you also have to be prepared for that to make sure you avoid it happening next time.”

Following a home clash with Boston a week tomorrow, the Minstermen will now test themselves again at Kidderminster three days later in the rearranged date for this weekend’s postponed league clash.

Gray’s team trailed 2-0 at Aggborough in the first round of the Trophy back in December but, after Amari Morgan-Smith had reduced the deficit, Daniel Rowe hit the post and Jon Parkin forced a fingertip save as the visitors almost earned a replay.

For long periods of the first half, though, City had been chasing shadows against a team that their manager rates as the best footballing side in the division, although Bencherif believes that tag, while commanding respect, should not precipitate fear.

“I’m expecting a tough game and a very good test when we go to Kidderminster, because they’re a really good side and play some of the best football in the division,” Bencherif said. “The manager has gone on record as saying they are the best footballing side in the league and I’d agree with that, having played against them a couple of times this season and seen the way they play.

“They are one of the teams that has a good football identity at this level, but their results aren’t the best in the division because they’re not top of the table. You have to find a style of play to beat them and I think we did that in the second half of our last game against them.

“We’ll need to do that now for 90 minutes against them. If you want to overcome a football team like Kidderminster, it depends on your approach and game-plan.

“You can either look to out-muscle them or out-play them but, either way, it all starts with discipline and we’ll need to stay in the game for as long as possible, because we can’t let what happened at Curzon Ashton (the 4-1 defeat) happen again.”