HARWICH and Parkeston manager Glenn Eldridge believes his much-improved side are “ahead of schedule” - and could be on course for a top-three finish this season.

The Shrimpers are fourth in the Essex and Suffolk Border League premier division with eight wins from their 13 games.

They have won their last three and are breathing down the necks of third-placed Alresford Colne Rangers.

“I’m happy with the way things have gone in the first half of the season,” said Eldridge.

“We’re only four points off our total from the whole of last season, we’re winning games and we’re keeping clean sheets.

“My back four and goalkeeper have been excellent and made us solid and hard to beat.

“It would be nice to score a few more goals and we could do with others chipping in, to help Matt Geen.

“But I can’t have too many complaints because we’re a young side and we’ve made real progress since this time last year.

“It’s been a massive improvement.

“I’d say we’re ahead of schedule, on and off the pitch, because when I joined I thought it would take three or four years to get to this point.

“We’ve learned how to dig deep and grind out results and hopefully we can push on and have a strong second-half of the season.

“One criticism is that we’ve thrown away a few points so it’s about becoming more consistent and having the right mentality for every game. That will come with time.”

Harwich are four points behind Alresford but they have four games in hand, heading into tomorrow’s home fixture against Hedinghams United (kick-off 2pm). The Shrimpers were left without a game last weekend following the postponement of their match against leaders Coggeshall United.

“I wasn’t too disappointed that it was off,” said Eldridge.

“Coggeshall’s first-team fixture had also been postponed so they would have sent a very strong side.

“I also had a few players out so it wasn’t the end of the world, although we’re itching to play again tomorrow.

“I believe we can finish in the top four and I don’t think third place is out of the question.

“In my opinion, Gas Rec, who we play next weekend, will win the league ahead of Coggeshall.

“But if we could pinch third spot I’d be delighted and it’s certainly possible.

“My young team hasn’t been overawed this season.

“They’re playing the right way and learning how to win games.

“For many of them, this is only their first or second season in men’s football and I certainly would have taken this position back in the summer, especially when you consider that we’re also through to the quarter-finals of the Knockout Cup.”

Regardless of where they finish, Harwich look set to move back up to step six football next season.

They have applied to be part of the new Thurlow Nunn League East Anglian/Essex division.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already have one eye on next season,” added former FC Clacton boss Eldridge.

“It’s an exciting prospect and it would be great to play alongside the likes of Little Oakley, Holland, Halstead and maybe Wivenhoe.”