Kettering 2 Grays 0 Grays continued their improved form despite this defeat, but manager Julian Dicks admits that he is already planning for life at a lower level.

The New Rec side will be bottom of the table when Chester City’s expulsion is confirmed and ex-West Ham favourite Dicks said: “We’re not down yet and of course we’ll carry on fighting for every point until mathematically we’re relegated.

“In the Conference you are sometimes not relegated until you kick-off in August but, although we’d never throw in the towel, the likelihood is we’ll be playing in Blue Square South next term and we need to be ready for that.”

If the seemingly inevitable happens and Grays do go down, Dicks insists he will still be in charge — unless told otherwise.

“I’m enjoying the challenge,” he declared.

“We won’t be full-time. We need a bit more value for our money as I still think there are too many people at Grays just happy to take home their money. It’s just not good enough.”

Dicks believes he will need to get more young, hungry players through the door next term and, with every member of the playing staff having their contracts up next month, it is expected only half-a-dozen of the current squad will escape the summer cull.

At Kettering, the promotion-chasing Poppies never had it all their own way, but took a 10th-minute lead through skipper Ian Roper.

They made it 2-0 four minutes before the break through John Dempster, but Grays battled well after the break.

And only a great save by home keeper Nathan Abbey stopped Grays grabbing a late consolation through Alex Rhodes.

Honest Dicks admitted: “I was pleased with the second-half but it was too late.

“Football is about 90 minutes and we only performed for 45.”