SHAUN PEJIC says the pressure will be on Wrexham next season when they start their Blue Square Premier campaign among the favourites for promotion.
But the Dragons defender is confident Wrexham can regain their place in the Football League by shutting out opposition sides who go looking for a big scalp.
The Racecourse side have kept clean sheets against League opposition four times during their pre-season campaign, beating Wolves 1-0 and drawing 0-0 in clashes with Blackpool, Tranmere and Crewe.
The Dragons also denied Unibond League side Colwyn Bay in their 2-0 victory at Llanelian Road last weekend, and will aim for more of the same when they visit Conference North outfit Stafford Rangers on Saturday.
And Pejic says Wrexham will need to keep their discipline at the back during the forthcoming season – which starts when Stevenage visit the Racecourse a week on Saturday – if they are to achieve their target of getting back into the League.
“Everyone’s confident we can go up,” said the 25-year-old centre-back. “Either automatically or through the play-offs – we’ll be there or thereabouts.
“It was disappointing last season when we were relegated – we’re favourites to go back up again so the pressure’s on us.
“It’s not going to be easy – teams are going to come to Wrexham and it’s going to be tough to scrape wins. But we need to do it and get straight back up.”
He added: “It’s going to be a tough year but if we all play well and stick to our goals each week we should do it.”
Pejic has seen competition increase in his position during the summer, with manager Brian Little shoring up the defence after Wrexham made countless errors last season which ultimately cost them their place in the League.
Little has signed centre-halves Darran Kempson and Nat Brown, as well as persuading Wales international Steve Evans to re-sign.
Mike Williams and Gaz Evans can also play at the heart of the defence, while full-backs Kyle Critchell, Carl Tremarco, Neil Taylor and Wes Baynes have all impressed during pre-season.
Pejic admits it will be a challenge for any defender to nail down a place in the side next season, but says that competition for places can only help the team as they look to become mean enough to avoid any slip-ups.
“The gaffer’s brought in Nat Brown and Darran Kempson at centre-half,” said Pejic. “Evo, Mike Williams and Gaz Evans are all here as well, so there are six players who could possibly play centre-half.
“It’s going to be tough for all of us – we’re not sure yet what the gaffer’s going to start with, but this weekend we should know more about what his first XI is.
“The way the pre-season’s going so far, for me personally I’m pleased with my performances. I’ve got a good level of fitness, I’m reasonably pleased with how it’s gone so far and we’ll see what happens this weekend.
“Players are going to want to play well to keep their place and that will mean defenders keeping clean sheets, which is good for the team.
“If you’re not in the team to start with you’re waiting for players to have a bad game, especially with defenders, but it’s good for the team and it’s going to be good for stopping goals from going in.”
He added: “We weren’t scoring a lot of goals last season, confidence was low and teams were scraping wins against us.
“What the gaffer’s trying to do this year is not just to get us to scrape wins but to be hard to beat.”
And so far this pre-season, says Pejic, the plan has been working.
He said: “In the games we’ve had so far we’ve done that. We’ve shown that against Wolves, Blackpool and Crewe and hopefully we’ll carry on doing that – and we’re looking forward to the start of the season.”