Horsham YMCA manager Peter Buckland has told his players they are playing for their futures for the remainder of the season.
The Gorings Mead boss has previously ruled out any faint promotion hopes this season after an indifferent run since the turn of the year.
A title challenge and promotion push was the aim at the start of the year, but YM have dropped off the pace in the Premier Division.
They sit third, but trail leaders Eastbourne Town by 14 points having played a game more.
But Buckland already has an eye on next season and said: “All hopes of promotion are gone.
“I’ve said to the players that I’ve got to start looking ahead to next season now and I’ve asked them to make me want to keep them for next year. It’s as brutal as that to be honest.
“If I’ve made a mistake this year, it’s been not refreshing the squad enough, because you do sometimes get in a bit of a rut.
“Hopefully it’s not a situation where we’ve got to say goodbye to people, because what we need is more strength in depth.
“I think that we are probably three players short in key positions of really knocking on the door for promotion.”
YM face a trip to fifth-placed Lancing on Saturday, before another exciting derby with tenants Horsham on Bank Holiday Monday - where they will be looking to avenge the heavy 4-1 defeat to their local rivals over the festive period.
Buckland added: “We’ve got two tough games coming up against Lancing away and then at home to Horsham.
“What more motivation do the players need than beating Lancing on a nice 4G surface and then playing against Horsham down here (Gorings Mead) in front of what will hopefully be a big crowd.”