WITH the odds still against his club avoiding Vanarama National League relegation this season, Braintree Town chairman Lee Harding admits that thoughts are starting to be directed past the end of the current campaign.

Despite a rousing 3-0 win at Sutton United on Tuesday evening, the Iron are still 12 points adrift from safety with eight fixtures left and Harding said plans were being put in place for next season.

It remains unclear whether a potential relegation would mean a drop into National League North or if a move into the southern division would in fact be the result, but changes may come sooner rather than later.

Harding said: “I don’t think there’s any point in putting a veneer on it, Saturday’s game against Harrogate was probably our worst performance of the season and our supporters are voting with their feet as it was our lowest home crowd of the season. So for a variety of reasons, it was not a good day, but we are in a situation now where I think we’d be foolish to pretend otherwise and say we’re still likely to be able to stay up.

“For me, the key game that we needed to win was at Dover and the fact we didn’t meant it was season all but over.

“We have eight games left and we need to win eight games, which having won seven out of 38, means we have to be realistic.

“That was the case when we had our board meeting last week and we are now looking at next season and planning towards that.”

Part of looking ahead to next season could mean changes to the playing squad, although Harding said manager Danny Searle could be the man to take them forward at the lower level if that is where they end up.

The chairman added: “There is a lot of support for Danny among the board members and he is a popular figure but we do need to start freshening the squad up.

“I think we need to start a process of attracting players for next season and that has already started.

“We embarrassed ourselves against Harrogate and that has to change, but there is a hope from the boardroom that Danny can show us some encouragement into the end of the season.

“To be fair to him, there is a lot of pressure on inexperienced shoulders as it is his first job as a manager, but he has a number of games to play with where there is not too much pressure on. He can now try things out.

“We are hoping for better, but there are some high-earning players who we can maybe take a view on whether the club is getting value for money from them.

“It is hard to justify paying the bigger money when the club is getting beaten week after week so we are looking for a positive response as we do need to be seeing value for money.”