Simon Weaver believes Harrogate Town face a tougher examination in their quest to join the Non League elite due to a strengthened National League North this season.
Town kick off their 2016/17 campaign with a trip to Worcester City on Saturday before welcoming old foes Boston United to the CNG Stadium on Tuesday night.
Boston are expected to be one of a number of teams bidding for promotion at the end of the season, along with Town who have been who have been priced as third favourites amongst the bookmakers.
Yorkshire rivals Halifax lead the market alongside moneybags AFC Fylde who knocked Town out of the play-offs last season.
Following the arrival of Darlington 1883 and Salford City from the Evo-Stik Leagues and the relegation of Atrincham and Kidderminster Harriers, there was no doubt in Weaver’s mind that a top five spot this time around would be harder.
However, Town’s boss expects to match the fourth-placed finish of last season, especially with the erection of the new 3G pitch at the CNG Stadium.
Weaver said: “I would like to think we will be in the mix. I’m not trying to sit on the fence but there will be 14 or 15 other managers that think they will be right up there.
“It’s going to be a much tougher league this year but if we are up there at the end with some excellent clubs, that will be a successful season.
“There’s no doubt that there has been more agents involved this year and more money thrown about.
“We have tried to keep sensible with it and build the way we have done over the last couple of years.
"I am really pleased with the attitude of our squad. Now it’s up to the players to show they deserve success and they have to deserve it more then the other teams.”
Ahead of Saturday’s opener, Weaver kept his selection plans close to his chest but revealed he had settled on his starting line-up.
Worcester fought relegation throughout the 2015/16 campaign and only survived the drop by two points. The Midlands outfit have lost influential winger Daniel Nti to York City although boss Carl Heeley still has the services of veteran striker Lee Hughes .
Saturday’s match will take place at Bromsgrove following Worcester’s move away from Kidderminster Harriers’ Aggborough Road.